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Vicuñas are the smallest members of the camelidae family. They are the only camel species that need daily access to water, and this is why they are generally found not far from sources of water in their distribution area. Vicuñas and Guanacos are wild animals, while the other two members of the camelidae family, the llama and the alpaca, were domesticated by humans.
Their fur is soft and silky, especially in the chest area, and in South America, only Incan nobles and members of the royal family were permitted to wear clothes made of vicuña fur. In the past, vicuñas were captured in their natural habitats, shorn, and released back into the wild. When the Europeans arrived in South America, vicuñas were hunted almost to extinction, but today, the vicuña population has recovered after being declared a protected species.
photo: Jerusalem Zoo Archive
photo: Jerusalem Zoo Archive
photo: Jerusalem Zoo Archive
The color of these wolves is grey (in English the species is even called "grey wolf") with shades of red, yellow, cream and black. The colors vary among different individuals, over different regions and according to the seasons. In polar regions of North America, the wolves are whiter in color. Black wolves are believed to be the result of hybridization with domestic dogs and not a natural occurrence.
Since human beings came into contact with wolves, they have been treated with suspicion on the one hand and on the other with great curiosity. Man recognized the wisdom of wolves, their cooperation and clear social relations within the wolf pack. This curiosity and wisdom led to wolves coming closer to humans and finally being gradually domesticated and utilized for their impressive hunting abilities. This is how the domestic dog came about – and became man’s best friend.
The common features of human and wolf led to the development of the mythical story of ancient Rome where Romulus and Remus are raised by a she-wolf. The wolf then became the symbol of the mythical founders of Rome. Similar stories, some of which apparently actually took place, later formed the basis for the famous story of Mowgli in “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling. Mowgli is raised by a wolf pack and becomes a devoted and beloved member of the group.
On the other hand, humans have also been frightened by the mysterious lives of wolves. The sound of wolves howling at night, and their skilled hunting of prey caused great fear. This is evidenced by the way wolves are viewed negatively across many different cultures – they were seen as vicious and evil. From the Bible verse "And the wolf will lie down with the lamb ..." (Isaiah) which represents the wolf as a vicious predator, to the story of "Little Red Riding Hood" and many other European legends including that of the werewolf where human take on wolf form on moonlit nights. Werewolves are even mentioned in the Harry Potter series. There can be no doubt that this fear of wolves and their negative portrayal in myths and legends has adversely affected their conservation worldwide.
They can hunt prey much larger than themselves by exhausting the animal preyed on. One wolf was documented chasing a deer for over 21km! They also sometimes force their prey into areas that are difficult to traverse in order to slow them down.
Wolves in Israel
Conservation of wolves in Israel is an example of the difficulty in maintaining the balance between man and nature. Many factors affect the system and all should be taken into consideration. On the one hand the wolf is the largest predator still living in the country and its preservation is essential for a balanced ecosystem. Because wolves are endangered in Israel, we should therefore make an effort to preserve this unique species. On the other hand, wolves cause friction with humans when they devour livestock, especially calves and lambs, causing serious damage to farmers. This is a problem because the greater part of their habitat overlaps with vast grazing areas in northern Israel.
What can be done?
Steps toward finding a solution have been formulated by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority in consultation with livestock owners:
Fencing grazing areas to prevent wolves from reaching them.
Swift removal of carcasses so as not to attract predators.
Creating protected areas where no one is allowed to harm wolves.
Employing technological means to warn of wolves approaching herds.
Protection of herds using guards and guard dogs.
Culling of wolf populations if necessary.
This solution illustrates just how complicated it is to achieve a balance between man and nature. It is hoped that this will decrease the damage to livestock herds and ensured the existence of a stable wolf population in the country.
Scientific Name: Canis lupus
Global Conservation Status: Least Concern (LC)
In Israel: -
At the Zoo: one male and one female - rescued wild pups
In the Bible: the wolf is the symbol of the tribe of Benjamin. “Benjamin is a wolf, he will prey; in the morning he will devour and plunder, and in the evening he will divide the spoil.” (Genesis 49:27)
Habitat and Distribution: the wolf’s original distribution covered most of the northern hemisphere, including North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa. They are present in almost every habitat, except for cliff areas or vast sandy deserts.
Body Structure: the Israeli sub-species is smaller than its European counterpart with an average weight of about 18 kg.
Diet: carnivorous - wolves hunt mainly mammals, which may be very small or very large, but they will also eat the carcasses of dead animals, and if near human settlements, they will eat trash and leftover food as well.
Social Structure: very social - the size of a pack of wolves can vary from 2-36 specimens, but the average size is 5-9. Packs are composed of a dominant pair and their offspring, but unrelated outsiders can sometimes join the pack.
Activity cycle: Nocturnal
Threats in the wild: habitat destruction, hunting and the reduction of prey has caused them to go extinct in vast areas, and has decreased their range