Fauna and Flora:

The Negev higland’s eco-system is characterized by a wide range of unique biodiversity functioning under extreme environmental conditions related to temperature and water stresses.

Fauna

In the Negev highland there are 21 species of land snails, 41 species of reptiles, 55 species of mammals, 201 species of nesting birds and 30 species of butterflies.

In Makhtesh Ramon there are fewer species due to the harsher conditions.

A partial list of the animals wondering the region is listed below. It is highly unlikely that you will come across even half of these but those you will see are sure to thrill you.

Nubian ibex – This  animal  was  in  danger  of  becoming  extinct  in  Israel,  and  was saved  by  the  1964 Wild  Animals  Protection  Law.  Its  muscular  body  and special  leg  structure  enable  it  to  the  negotiate  the  steep  rocky  cliffs.  It is  difficult  to  spot  Nubian  ibexes  when  they  are  moving  from  cliff  to cliff,  but  quite  easy  when  they  stop  for  a  drink  of  water.

Leopard  –  The  Negev  highlands  is  one  of  the  only  places  in  Israel  with a small yet vital population of this nocturnal feline.

Striped hyena  –  The striped hyena is a large canine scavenger.

Caracal  –  Recognizable  by  the  large  tufts  of  hair  at  the  tips  of  its  ears, the caracal is a large nocturnal feline.

Syrian  hyrax – A small, brown-furred diurnal mammal, the Syrian hyrax lives in large groups between the rocks.

Lappet-faced  vulture  –  This  predatory  subspecies  is  endemic  to  the Ramon region. The  population  of  lappet-faced  vultures  was  wiped  out in  the  Negev,  but  perhaps  can  be  revived,  thanks  to  specimens  which survived on the Arabian Peninsula.

Atractaspis  engaddensis  –  This  relatively  thin,  poisonous  snake  grows up  to  80  centimeters  long.  The  species  is  endemic  to  Israel  and  the Sinai Desert.

Poekilocerus  bufonius  –  Black  with  yellow  dots,  this  grasshopper  eats poisonous  plants  from  the  milkweed  family,  from  which  it  produces its venom.

Dorcas gazelle – The dorcas gazelle, or mountain gazelle, is smaller than the  Gazella  gazella  found  elsewhere  in  Israel.  This  population  was endangered  in  the  1960s,  but  was  saved  thanks  to  the  Wild  Animals Protection Law.

Sand  fox  –  The  diet  of  this  small  nocturnal  fox  is  varied:  bugs,  small rodents, fruits, and vegetables.

Fat  desert  rat  –  The  saltbush  is  the  mainstay  of  the  diet  of  this  large diurnal  rodent.  If  fed  sugar-rich  food,  the  fat  desert  rat  will  develop diabetes.

Uromastyx aegyptius – This herbivorous, diurnal  agama can  grow  to be up to 75 centimeters long.

Cairo  spiny  mouse  –  The  body  of  this  mouse-sized  diurnal  rodent  is covered with sharp bristles.

Sand partridge – A characteristic desert bird, the sand partridge nests on the ground. Because of its heavy body, the sand partridge cannot fly far, and skirts danger by flying from one bank of the wadi to the other.

Lesser  bustard  –  This  large  terrestrial  bird  lives  primarily  in  open areas.  The  lesser  bustard  was  hunted  in  the  past  because  its  meat was  considered  a  delicacy.  It  still  appears  on  the  list  of  endangered species.

Flora

The  large  wadis  in  the  Negev  highland have  a  wealth  of  flora,  including buckthorn,  globe  daisy,  and  woundwort.  In  the  spring  you  can  see lovely flowers in bloom, such as tulip, Jacob’s rod, and anemone.

One of the remarkable features of this habitat is the occurrence of large Pistacia atlantica trees at high elevations. Carub trees and Sumacs can also be found.

Since  a  great  deal  of  water  drains  into the  wadis,  acacia  trees  can  live  there.  Box  thorn,  ochradenus,  broom, moricandia, cattail,  and  reed  grow  near  the  acacias.  Saltwort,  a  plant with small, scaly leaves, is found where the ground is rich in gypsum.

Within the central Negev Highlands there are approximately 32 species of plants that are considered within the red list of endangered species of Israel.

Many different types of plants grow on the Ramon Ridge, with those of Irano-Turanian  (central  Asian)  origin  predominating.  The  bitter  winter cold  delays  the  main  flowering  season  to  late  winter  and  spring,  when the  flowers  bloom  with  amazing  beauty.

The  desert  springs  also  produce  a  special  habitat.  Cattails  and  reeds grow tall  near  the  fresh  water. The  rush,  whose  leaves  have  needle-like points,  is  evidence  that  there  is  groundwater  close  by,  even  if  none  is visible.

Farther  from  the  water,  especially  in  places  where  the  ground is  rather  salty,  you  can  spot  nitraria,  a  plant  with  fleshy  leaves,  a grayish  cast,  and  sweetish  red  fruit.  Spiky  camel-thorns  and  tamarisk trees  grow near the nitraria. The small salt crystals dotting their leaves illustrate that they are equipped to actively rid themselves of the excess salt in the ground.

About  10  percent  of  the  rocky  surface  of  the  Ramon  Ridge  is  covered by  bushes  and  shrubs.  Wormwood,  a  grayish,  highly  fragrant shrub,  can  be  seen  almost  everywhere.  Bedouin  folk  medicine  uses  wormwoods  to  relieve  stomach-aches  and  congestion.

The  steep  cliff  facing  the  makhtesh  is  a  vertical  habitat,  and  therefore does  not  benefit  from  runoff  water.  Not  surprisingly,  typical  desert plants,  such  as  zygophyllum  and  gymnocarpus,  are  found  here. Nonetheless,  some  characteristic  Mediterranean  flora,  for  example caper,  sprout in the crevices. Desert shrubs, including  gymnocarpus  and anabasis, are the flora most commonly seen on the basalt stone, as well as on the  limestone and sandstone in the makhtesh.

The  makhtesh  floor  is  drier and hotter than the ridge. Saharo-Indian flora (originating in the Sahara Desert  and  the  deserts  of  the  Arabian  Peninsula)  are  most  commonly seen here.