Animal endangerment and extinction is a problem all over the world. Many species, such as the giant panda, cheetah and leopard, have become endangered. Others have suffered an even worse fate: extinction.
Animals that live in the Middle East – including Israel – are becoming endangered at an alarming rate. Of Israel’s 104 known mammals, 57 are locally endangered or extinct.
Some species that are regionally extinct include the European water Vole, the cheetah, the Caucasian squirrel and the Nile crocodile.
The Arabian leopard and the sand cat are two of the more recent additions to the endangered list.
A positive reminder that people have started doing their part in conserving wildlife came in November 2011, when a thought-to-be extinct species, the Israel painted frog, was spotted in the Hula Valley Nature Reserve in northern Israel. Improvements made at the reserve were said to be a possible reason for its reappearance.
Some of the causes of animal endangerment in Israel are similar to those in North America and elsewhere.
Like here, pesticide and/or chemical use can poison animals, and urbanization often destroys their habitat, leaving them homeless.
There are also other contributing factors in Israel.
For one, hunting laws are not as well enforced as they are in North America, so people may be killing endangered animals without even knowing it.
Another problem, which is not as easily solved, concerns Israel’s excessive population of wild wolves. The wolves are predators of smaller mammals, and therefore deplete certain species almost altogether.
The current focus in Israel and elsewhere is on protecting and restoring wildlife and animal habitats.
At California’s Scripps Research Institute, Israeli scientist Inbar Friedrich Ben-Nun is saving stem cells from animals that may be in danger of extinction.
Stem cells are found in all multicellular organisms and can be turned into any type of cell in the body – a characteristic called pluripotency, according to this report on haaretz.com.
Ben-Nun hopes scientists will eventually be able to turn the stem cells into sperm or egg cells that can be used to reproduce endangered or extinct animals in the future.
Her research could one day save species all around the world.