Twenty-five cities have conducted city-wide nature surveys and some have been assimilated in general or detailed master plans. During the last year we promoted 15 new urban nature surveys reaching further and further afield to officials working on the issue of urban nature in government ministries and local authorities. Three municipalities have completed urban policy documents on the subject of urban nature: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Kfar Saba.
Thanks to your support we are conserving urban nature, promoting balanced urban planning that considers urban nature assets and working towards conservation and maintenance of urban nature sites. Together with groups of residents and nature-conserving citizens we are promoting sustainable urban settlement.
In recent years we have been using online report forms and calling on the broad public to participate in citizen science activities from any place, even via smartphones. Citizen science is a partnership between citizens and scientists.
We at SPNI make a bridge between the public and researchers on issues related to nature conservation and protection of biodiversity and open landscapes. We invite nature lovers to be involved in citizen science – to report on predatory animals and help promote wildlife crossings, to monitor butterflies or count birds and allow us to monitor changes in populations, to report bird observations and help us map natural areas with sensitivity for conservation.
Many of the monitoring activities are conducted in the city. We conduct extensive citizen monitoring activities in our urban communities, which are found in six large cities: Haifa, Hadera, Tel Aviv, Modi’in, Jerusalem and Be’er Sheva. Within the framework of the urban community we meet a large number of people who love nature and conserve the environment. We run a training program for different groups of activists. Some of them conduct important monitoring activities and thus become intimately familiar with the urban nature right next to their homes.
Together with the Butterfly Lovers Association, which runs the national butterfly monitoring plan, we established groups of activists in Hadera and Modi’in to monitor butterflies. The groups received training, and the volunteers go out once a fortnight to monitor along a set route. The data help researchers obtain a current picture of the situation and stay on top of the situation.
We launched the reporting application ‘I Saw a Gazelle’ through which residents report to us each time they see a gazelle.
In Haifa there has been much interest in the salamanders in the city’s valleys. In late 2017, a project to monitor salamanders in Haifa was launched; a group of nature lovers works in partnership with the community of Haifa and its surroundings and the Green Heart organization – volunteers set out on night surveys in the city’s valleys on rainy nights. The surveys recorded dozens of salamanders – a much larger population than we were aware of.
These data will help us work in a focused way to conserve nature in the city.
Urban Nature Week
In March 2018, at the peak of flowering, we went out together with 20,000 residents to celebrate urban nature during Urban Nature Week that to our delight has become a tradition. Within the framework of this week about 50 different and diverse events took place, at different urban nature sites, throughout the country. Together with you we celebrated the beauty of our land, learned about nature conservation issues and became familiar with the nature right near our homes. Urban Nature Week included many activities run by groups of active residents who work within the framework of our urban communities.
Third Birthday for Gazelle Valley
During the Pesach holiday, spring and nature events were held at Gazelle Valley Park in Jerusalem to celebrate the park’s third birthday. In that time, more than 16,000 people visited the park and participated in various cultural and educational activities open to the public. Gazelle Valley has become a spectacular nature site attracting great interest and is the pride of Jerusalem. How grateful we are that we fought to open it!
Ruti the Hyena
In the last year, the residents of Modi’in – Maccabim – Reut got to know Ruti the hyena who was observed wandering the city’s streets. Due to the bad reputation of hyenas, panic developed among the residents.
In order to reduce the anxiety level, and to try to explain how to deal with the issue, our Modi’in community produced an explanatory video. The video was distributed among the city’s residents via social networks in a joint effort of all the community’s members. The video reached more than 3,600 views! Monitoring of reports on these networks showed that the anxiety level decreased.
Following this success in the social networks, Ruti the hyena decided to join the virtual world and set up a Facebook blog in which she wrote about her experiences and shared her thoughts. The virtual character raises awareness of the issue of wild animals in residential areas and exposes many residents to the correct rules of behavior with respect to garbage and waste that may attract wild animals.
Ruti, the hyena from Modi’in, touched the hearts of many in Modi’in and throughout the country. This is a unique case of a hyena that made her home within a city and was not satisfied just with random searches for food.
Because of the significant risks to Ruti such as being run over, poisoned or intentionally hurt and because she had taken up residence inside the city there was no choice but to move her to a completely different area, far enough away that she would not be able to return to the city.
In such a unique case of an animal making its home inside the city, removing it does not solve all of the factors that caused Ruti and other animals to come to the city in search of food: an abundance of leftover food and edible waste, accessible to wild animals, feeding corners for pets that are unsupervised and also attract wild animals, and more.
The city of Modi’in, as well as many other cities around the country, is continually expanding into the open landscapes, which serve as the natural home for wild animals. With suitable planning, the interaction between city and nature may be highly desirable, for both humans and animals. However, without suitable planning, this phenomenon may be dangerous for many species of wild animals and become a nuisance and threat for the human residents of the city. Without correct treatment at sites of attraction for wild animals in cities and other human settlements, penetration of wild animals to city centers will simply increase.
In order to reduce the extent of this phenomenon while also protecting wild animals, we must prepare suitable infrastructures for storing and transferring waste, which are inaccessible to wild animals, and be strict about closing garbage bins and transferring waste to appropriately designed collection centers.
We are sad to have reached a situation in which there was a need to transfer Ruti to another location. We hope that after a period of acclimation at the Yotvata Wildlife Reserve, which belongs to INPA, she will soon be released into the open, natural landscapes and will live her life in peace, far away from unnecessary dangers.
Next year, we will celebrate a decade of our activity in the area of urban nature. We will continue to make efforts to conduct urban nature surveys and include them in cities’ master plans, and to have statutory protection of urban nature sites, their management by professionals, and their maintenance by a strong, involved community