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Are There Lions in Israel? Here is All You Need to Know

Christianity and Judaism are among the most popular religions in the world, and they both started in Israel. They heavily feature lions in their doctrines, mainly as a symbol of power and in sacred references.

Therefore, it’s natural to wonder if there are lions in this perceived ‘Holy Land’ of Israel.

Are There Lions In Israel?

Currently, there are no wild lions in Israel, and the only ones present are in captivity at Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem. Due to the country’s arid and desert-like climate, coupled with its high population, releasing the lions in the wild would decrease their chances of survival.

However, there is sufficient evidence to prove that there were plenty of wild lions in Israel, as depicted by the archaeological carvings and cave paintings found and preserved in the country.

Their influence on the land is evident in religious texts and sculptures in various places such as Jerusalem. It explains why the Judeans have been using ‘The lion of Judah’ as their national symbol since ancient history.

Lion portrait

Also read: What Eats Lions? Their Top 5 Natural Enemies

When Did Lions Go Extinct in Israel?

The wild lions of Israel, known as Asiatic lions, are believed to have become extinct during the active period of religious crusades around a.d 1200. In the Middle East regions neighboring the Holy Land, such as Syria, Jordan, and Mesopotamia, the local Asiatic lions disappeared during the 20th century.

The main reasons that significantly contributed to the extinction of these big cats were poaching by humans (during the crusade period) as a trophy and the arid conditions of the regions that led to decreased numbers of the lions’ prey.

Weapon sophistication (the use of firearms) during the 20th century also made it easy for the Increasing human population to kill large numbers of the remaining wild lions in the region.

What Species of Lion Were in Ancient Israel?

Unlike the African lions that are larger, the ancient Asiatic lion species that were present in Israel were much smaller in size. Their scientific definitions are Panthera leo leo and Panthera persica.

The current Asiatic lions that are in captivity in Israel weigh approximately 350-450 lbs (159-205 kg) and have an estimated height of 3-4.5 ft.

Asiatic lion
Asiatic lion

Are There Big Cats in Israel?

Sadly, most of the big cats that were previously present in Israel have been hunted down close to extinction. Leopards are the only remaining big cats found in the country.

They are known as ‘Arabian or Desert leopards’ due to their previous habitats, usually the semi-arid regions of Israel and Middle-eastern nations. They are highly endangered animals due to their low survival chances.

The last desert leopard living in the wild died of illness in 2009. Currently, there are less than ten desert leopards left in Israel’s wildlife sanctuaries, and they are all male.

Also read: Lion vs. Leopard: Main Differences & Who Would Win a Fight?

Frequently Asked Questions

What Other Animals Can Be Found in Israel?

Caracals are the remaining feline species that have managed to survive well in Israel. They are mainly present in Golan heights down to the dead sea.

Some of the country’s most popular herbivores include; the hyrax and ibex, mainly found near the Dead Sea banks due to the ample supply of green vegetation growing in the regions.

Gazelles are common in most areas of the country, except the densely populated areas. There are two types of this animal in Israel; the Mountain (Israeli) and the Dorcas (Negev) gazelles.

The wild boars are also found in large numbers, especially in Israel’s remote areas, such as the regions of Golan.

Others include: desert foxes, Mediterranean horse hoe bats, Indian crested porcupines, African softshell turtles, and Arabian Oryx.

What is Israel’s National Animal?

The Israeli gazelle is the official national animal of Israel. Also known as the Mountain gazelle, since it usually lives in the country’s mountainous regions, its scientific name is Gazella gazella.

Its beauty and grace have made it achieve national praise and recognition since Israel is also known as the ‘Land of the Gazelle.’ Even in the Bible, King Solomon used the animal as a reference for beauty in several verses in the Songs of Songs (Solomon).

Final Thoughts

To prevent further extinction of the remaining wild animals in Israel, including the lions in captivity, Israel established a wildlife protection authority to safeguard significant natural habitats and the country’s flora and fauna.

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