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Blind Prawns Saved From Extinction at Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo

Environment  (tags: GOOD NEWS, Israel, prevention of extinction of bind prawn )

- 1831 days ago -
Human development has put this blind shrimp, or prawn to be more precise (Typhlocaris Galilea), at severe risk of extinction. The prawn is found in a remarkable habitat: It lives in one chamber of an ancient Roman cistern in a forgotten city on the north

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Beth S (330)
Sunday May 19, 2013, 8:03 pm
The prawn is found in a remarkable habitat: It lives in one chamber of an ancient Roman cistern in a forgotten city on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Water from the chamber doesn’t flow in or out directly, but seeps through the clay bottom, and then into other sections.

There are others similar to these blind shrimp in cave systems around the world, including Mexico, but these shellfish “are really the last on earth,” says Nicole Wexler, development director for the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens, also known as the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

Habitat threatened as groundwater use changes

Described first in 1909, the blind prawns are now critically endangered because the only place they can live is in the En-Nur pool, where groundwater drilling and pumping has leaked foreign water into their environment, changing the composition and temperature.

The three-inch-long, transparent creatures may not be especially cute, nor do ecosystems depend on their survival. But the Israel Nature and Parks Authority approached the zoo to help keep the species alive through a dedicated behind-the-scenes breeding program.

This “genetic bank” — an ark of sorts, Wexler tells ISRAEL21c – is a little windowless hut to limit the prawns’ exposure to light, and the water is carefully balanced with just the right amount of salinity and dissolved gases they need in order to thrive. Someday they may be able to be returned to their native habitat.

“One of the functions of a modern zoo is to act as a genetic ark for critically endangered species — particularly where their natural environment is disappearing – to ensure that they do not become lost to us forever,” said Shai Doron, director of the Biblical Zoo.

Animals from Persia and Arab countries fill the ark

There are many other breeding and conservation efforts at the Jerusalem zoo. Zoologists there have done remarkable work with Persian fallow deer, believed to be extinct until the 1950s when a few were found in Iran and brought to Israel to be bred. Also once native to Israel, the deer decades later are now back in the wild in the north of Israel and in the Jerusalem hills.

The European otter, also a threatened species, has been bred successfully at the zoo as well as the sand cat, the Negev tortoise and the Griffon vulture, says Wexler.

The zoo was also the first in the world to breed captive Asian elephants using artificial insemination.

Recently, Israel’s nature authority and zoos have had to deal with an influx of gray wolves entering Israel from the north. It appears the animals are fleeing troubles in surrounding Arab countries, such as Lebanon.

“It’s so endangered and hunted so that’s why we are seeing an influx into Israel,” says Wexler.

Wolves, among them the gray wolves, will be part of a new exhibit opening at the zoo in the spring in June. “It will be stocked with wolves rescued from the wild and in time they will breed and then we’ll see what we can do for them next.”

Wexler argues that only zoos can accomplish this species rescue work.

“Today the world’s natural habitats are so threatened that without zoos these animals aren’t going to be preserved,” Wexler says. “We participate in both local and global programs to save animals and it’s important work as a whole.”

Rahman Qureshi (76)
Sunday May 19, 2013, 9:36 pm
Preservation of species is Biblical. Thanks for sharing this story Beth.

Hilary S (65)
Monday May 20, 2013, 1:17 am
noah's ark is apparently alive and well

Stan B (123)
Monday May 20, 2013, 2:03 am
Great story thanks Beth. This concern about endangered species is what sets Israel apart from its looney neighbours.

Past Member (0)
Monday May 20, 2013, 6:24 am
Very interesting...wondeful they're being carefully protected! Just sad that most animal species will be in the protective custody of zoo walls...thx Beth

Jay S (116)
Monday May 20, 2013, 7:19 am
The saving of any species is something to celebrate!

Carola M (20)
Monday May 20, 2013, 7:20 am
Now if they could just some of that great Israeli scientific ability and restore the poor thing's sight...:)

Jo S (619)
Monday May 20, 2013, 8:41 am
Awesome story, love it, presservation is vital to all of us!
Thanks Beth
Noted & shared.

Past Member (0)
Monday May 20, 2013, 9:43 am
At least the israelis are not shooting the gray wolves Good to know they are helping them

. (0)
Monday May 20, 2013, 11:30 am

. (0)
Monday May 20, 2013, 12:26 pm
A remarkable story, thank you for posting Beth.

. (0)
Monday May 20, 2013, 3:28 pm
How one can tell if a prawn is blind is incredible in itself. but another statement was very encouraging. The insemination od Asian elephants was great to read.

Monday May 20, 2013, 4:46 pm
Very interesting, thanks for posting Beth. Noted!

Madhuri P (22)
Monday May 20, 2013, 5:03 pm

pam w (139)
Monday May 20, 2013, 9:14 pm
Good for them! Of course, MANY here will write a knee-jerk response condemning zoos, without knowing a thing about them!

Good for the staff at this zoo. We all have the same objective, really....we're just trying to save the species at a time.

pam w (139)
Monday May 20, 2013, 9:18 pm
Performing artificial insemination on Asian elephants is HUGELY difficult!

African elephant sperm can be frozen and stored for future use.

Asian elephant sperm CANNOT be frozen and has a ''shelf-life'' of only six hours! You've got to have the cow ready and waiting or it'll fail.

And, of course, collecting sperm from ANY elephant is one HELLUVA project!

Ryan Y (49)
Monday May 20, 2013, 10:28 pm
Thank you for sharing!!

Judith H (55)
Tuesday May 21, 2013, 1:10 pm
Noted. Bravo, Israel!

Russell R (87)
Wednesday May 22, 2013, 8:58 am
"Today the world’s natural habitats are so threatened that without zoos these animals aren’t going to be preserved," ****** To think that maybe one day some alien cultrue, just may be doing the same to preserve Humans from extinction!

Nancy Black (308)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 6:04 pm
Noted, tweeted, shared, tweeted, and shared. This excites me; I love history and to think this species lived in Roman times and is almost extinct. Hope it stays protected.
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