Ibex is latest Israeli animal escapee
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Ibex is latest Israeli animal escapee

Leopards, rhinos, emus, and crocodiles have all made breaks for freedom in recent years

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

An ibex chats up a Tristram’s grackle at the Ein Gedi nature reserve .(Shmuel Bar-Am)
An ibex chats up a Tristram’s grackle at the Ein Gedi nature reserve .(Shmuel Bar-Am)

An ibex on Thursday became the latest in a series of creatures to make breaks for freedom from Israelis zoos and safaris.

The bids to run wild have been coming particularly thick and fast recently, with rhinos and emus also evading their keepers and reaching the streets in the past month or so.

Here’s a chronicle of the animal escapes.

The Ramat Gan Hurdle: On the morning of January 29, 2015, zookeepers at the Ramat Gan Safari received reports of an ibex running free on a nearby street.  Four staff members headed out and found her, and drove alongside the creature to guide her back to the open enclosure of safari.

An investigation by the zoo revealed that noise from a nearby highway and work by the water company the previous evening scared the ibexes, and the female decided she’d had enough and headed out for the big city.

Running of the Rambling Rhinos: Three rhinoceroses made a short bid for freedom on New Year’s Day 2015 after they slipped out of a side gate at — surprise surprise — the Ramat Gan Safari.

The trio, named Rihanna, Keren Peles and Karnivala, plodded into the street where they were spotted by astonished joggers out for a morning run, the Hebrew-language Ynet news site reported.

The safari explained that a keeper had dozed off for a few minutes and the three seized the opportunity to make their escape.

Director of the Ramat Gan Safari Yehuda Bar saved the day by leading the beasts back to safety.

Rihanna was named exactly 2 years ago on January 1, 2013, in honor of the Barbadian pop singer. Keren Peles was named after the Israeli singer. Karnivala is an alteration of the Hebrew word for rhinoceros, karnaf.

Emu-tional journey: Three days later, an emu took a casual stroll down a rainy highway in Herzliya, before it was captured near a mall in the central Israel city.

The large flightless bird likely ran away from a nearby farm, reports said.

It was taken by municipality workers to a nearby pound, and subsequently returned to its owners.

The emu, which was described in an Israel radio report as “alarmed,” was apprehended near the Shivat HaKochavim shopping center in Herzliya.

Capturing crocs: Until the early 20th century, Nile Crocodiles patrolled Israel’s freshwater creeks. But they never reached the dusty Jordan Valley.

That all changed in 2011.

Crocodile farm in Israel. November 21, 2011. (photo credit: Liron Almog/FLASH90)
Crocodile farm in Israel. November 21, 2011. (photo credit: Liron Almog/FLASH90)

Dozens of the reptilians escaped a farm in Moshav Petzael when the dedicated caretaker, Bassem, forgot to close a gate. Some of the crocs reached a swimming pool in a town two kilometers away.

Soldiers, residents, and Nature and Park Authority workers found 65 escaped reptiles, mostly by shining flashlights at night and locating the reflection in their eyes.

Spotting a leopard: Soldiers often start seeing things in the wee hours of the morning during long overnight shifts. But when a high-tech surveillance camera captures images of a leopard wandering the northern West Bank, there can be no doubt.

In early 2010, a reservist spotted the rare predator wandering around only a few hundred meters from their position. He told his comrades, who laughed at him.

But when the soldier, Aviad Habar, sent the footage to the Nature and Parks Authority, they confirmed that he had seen a leopard.

IDF cameras filmed a rare leopard in the northern West Bank (photo credit: screen capture idfspox1/Youtube)
IDF cameras filmed a rare leopard in the northern West Bank (photo credit: screen capture idfspox1/Youtube)

Some experts thought the predator had snuck into Israel from Jordan, while others postulated that she was native do the Samaria region but had not yet been spotted. But the leading theory was that it escaped the zoo in the Palestinian city Ramallah several years before.

The story of Israel’s leopard population is a tale of mismanagement and willful destruction. Israel was once home to dozens of Arabian leopards (as well as cheetahs and lions) but hunting and habitat loss reduced the population of the beautiful predator to under 10 today, in the Judean Desert and the Negev. The Ein Gedi oasis boasted a popular family of leopards, but nearby residents poisoned many of the cats.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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