Rock bottom

Nubian ibex rescued from 10-meter-deep sinkhole

10-year-old animal pulled to safety in two-hour rescue operation

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

It took two hours and plenty of muscle, but in the end a determined team managed to rescue a Nubian ibex that had fallen into a 10 -meter (32-foot)-deep pit near the Ein Gedi kibbutz in southern Israel.

After being alerted by an Ein Gedi resident who had spotted the animal while walking his dog near the kibbutz orchards, volunteers from a regional rescue service arrived along with a local police officer. One volunteer rappelled down into the hole and attached a rope to the animal, after which additional volunteers and the policeman pulled it up to safety, under the watchful eye of a ranger from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA).

The incident took place Tuesday, and was reported by the parks authority on Thursday.

Shai Rozenzweig, the INPA official in charge of the Dead Sea region, said the 10-year-old ibex emerged from its ordeal in good condition, and was immediately released. He said the animal would surely have died in the heat had it not been for the kibbutz member’s keen eye and speedy action.

The ibex, some 200 of which live in the Dead Sea and Judean Desert region, is the symbol both of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and of Israel’s success in protecting what is thought to be the world’s largest population, while the species declines elsewhere.

The sinkhole, with a diameter of around eight meters (26 feet), is one of thousands that have opened up along the Dead Sea’s shores, as the sea itself has receded.

Receding saltwater leaves behind underground salt deposits. Water from winter flash floods percolates into the ground and dissolves the salt, causing the land above it to fall in.

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