Planners on Sunday greenlit the creation of a new, 90-square-kilometer (35-square-mile) nature reserve at Ramat Mazar in the Negev Desert in southern Israel.
Bordered by Route 25 to the north, the existing Judean Desert Nature Reserve to the south and west and the Sodom salt flats to the northeast, the area is home to several species that are unique to Israel, such as the Nubian ibex, dorcas gazelle, the desert tawny owl and Blanford’s fox.
Caracals, hyenas, Egyptian spiny-tailed lizards, sand partridges and blackstarts also call the area home.
The reserve includes a variety of landscapes and geological formations, with cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls, and offers several existing trails such as those along the Tzafit and Tamar streambeds, which are popular with hikers.
Recognition as a nature reserve by the Southern District Planning Committee will bring additional promenades and routes for hikers and cyclists, plus overnight camping facilities, signage and guiding materials, according to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Gilad Gabai, responsible for the INPA’s southern district, said, “Each addition of a new reserve allows us to better preserve and protect nature and heritage and ensure their continued growth.”