Nature and Parks Authority: We Can’t Stop Illegal Hunting

'A hunter who in one night returns with 10 deer and a few porcupines can get thousands of shekels for the meat.'

Uriel Sinai

The head of the Nature and Parks Authority admitted on Tuesday that the agency is almost helpless to stop illegal hunting for wild animals.

At a meeting of the authority on Tuesday, director Shaul Goldstein said “We catch only five percent of the hunters, meaning that the rest operate undisturbed, including foreign workers.

"A hunter who in one night returns with 10 deer and a few porcupines can get thousands of shekels for the meat. They have advanced devices for night vision and good intelligence and they use lookouts. The authority is taking measures to deal with the problem and is planning to cooperate with the Israel Police to gather information on people who are planning to hunt,” he said.

Goldstein added that nature reserves are necessary to provide better protection for wild animals that are under heavy pressure from illegal hunting.

Summarizing the authority’s activity in 2015, Goldstein harshly attacked the government ministries, arguing that public pressure to quickly solve the housing crisis leads to construction without coordination and planning, causing damage to nature.

An example is the planned construction in the hills west of Jerusalem in places such as Har Heret. “They decided to build although the municipality said that there are enough building reserves within the city,” said Goldstein. “This is a new neighborhood but there’s no access road. It’s not clear where the road will pass.” Some of the areas near Jerusalem were designated to become national parks.

In addition, not a single nature reserve was declared this year, although there were 50 such requests. “I don’t recall such a thing before,” said Goldstein. “One of the reasons is that some groups in the government consider nature reserves an obstacle to development because there are building restrictions in them.”

About one fifth of the area of Israel is nature reserves and national parks that are off-limits to construction, but most of this area is in the Negev. North of the Negev less than five percent of the land is closed to development. Goldstein said the Nature and Parks Authority doesn’t oppose development where it is essential, and is even willing to give up existing nature reserves. It agreed to residential construction on the site of the quarry on Har Heret and made concessions for Druze communities in the Galilee.

The Finance Ministry said in response that three nature reserves were declared this year, adding that the procedure is long and complex. The Nature and Parks Authority maintained that the three nature reserves were in fact declared last year.