Visits to Israel’s parks plummeted in 2020 due to virus, but wildlife thrived

Visitor numbers at Israel’s national parks and nature reserves almost halved this year, thanks to the coronavirus, the Nature and Parks Authority reports in its annual summation.

Total visits dipped 49 percent, from 10.6 million between January and October last year to 5.4 million over the same period this year. Visits by foreign tourists were down by 77% and those by Israelis decreased by 37%, with nationwide lockdowns during the peak visitor periods of Passover and the Fall High Holy Days and limits on visitor numbers outside of lockdowns compounding the hit taken by the tourism industry.

But while humans stayed away, wildlife thrived, with 220 vultures counted this year, compared with 180 last year, and 48 vulture nests counted in 2020, up slightly from 45 in 2019. The year also saw an all-time record number of turtle nests identified along the Mediterranean coast — 380, compared with 230 last year.

— Sue Surkes