The hyrax are cute to some, and pests to others. Photos by Arik Kershenbaum
They are considered as cute little critters to some people, and they have been around since at least biblical times. But nowadays, like other animals that are classified as pests – like jellyfish during the summer months, or wild boar that often damage crops and orchards, the hyrax or Rock Rabbit as they are usually known in Israel, are now multiplying so fast that they are considered pests. Why? Because they are moving into the foundations of new building projects.
Classified by their Latin name Procavia capensis, these small furred mammals are common in many Mediterranean countries and Africa, where they live in rocky areas, and even in trees.
But for lack of habitat they are building their homes in rocks cast out by building companies, mentioned recently in a BBC Nature article.
Would you believe Hyrax are related to elephants?
Hyrax are not actually related to rabbits at all, or even to members of the rodent family, such as ground squirrels or nutria both of which are also found in Israel.
Actually, they are in a classification that is more closely related to elephants or marine dugongs (sea cows), found in the Arabian Gulf.
The problem of an increase of the hyrax in Israel is also connected with the possibility of their transmitting a skin disease, cutaneous leishmaniasis, that could be transmitted to humans. This disease, also known as “Alleppo Boil” or “Baghdad Boil” is transmitted by sand fleas that often are found on the hyrax.
Arik Kershenbaum, who has made a study of these creatures, told the BBC that the Hyrax has now become so bold that they are now moving into the man-made boulder piles, and have become curiosity specimens for people to look at,as well as to hear the animal’s distinct high pitched squeaks.
Hyrax pad thai?
People who are not attracted to them are now asking that their numbers be reduced. While hunting is one of the most used methods of culling animal pests, Israeli hunters have so far not expressed any interest in going after them.
Perhaps the solution might be found by migrant Thai farm workers who have been accused of poaching wildlife for food.
One might wonder though if even these people would want to go after these cute little creatures, that were called rock badgers in the Bible.
Read more on wildlife issues in Israel:
Jellyfish Attack on Israel and Lebanon Seacoasts a Clear Sign of Global Warming
Thai Migrant Workers Poach Wildlife for Food in Israel
Swine Flu and the Future of Israeli Pigs, Domestic and Wild