Vertebrate Fauna Analysis of Wadi Gaza (Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds
par Web Team
The Gaza Strip (GS) is the south portion of Palestinian coast, located along the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It covers a narrow strip of about 360km2 (40 Km length, 9 Km width) between the borders and the sea. The strip consists of sand dunes, mainly at the western parts, characterized by rather fragile ecosystem and dissected by three major wadis; Wadi Beit-Hanoun at north, Wadi Gaza at middle and Wadi Silka at south.
The Palestine faunal links with the three Old Worlds is not tenuous. The geographic position of Palestine in the far west of Asia and close to the Palaearctic and Afrotropical realms has ensured a mixing of animal and plant elements, and has enhanced the development of some endemic faunal and floral species. So, many of GS mammals were originated from the Palaearctic realm and less from Palaeotropic realm such as the Northern Hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus. While the Saharo-Arabian desert Hedgehog Paraechinus aethiopicus and Dorcas Gazelle Gazella saudiya show partial overlap in distribution with those from Palaearctic and Asiatic realms. The Mole Rat Spalax leucodon represents another Asiatic element in the GS fauna; while the Egyptian Mongoose Herpestes ichneumon represents an Afrotropical component in the fauna of GS. On the other hand the Buxton,s Jird Meriones sacramenti is one of the known endemic mammals in GS. As previously mentioned the geographical position of Palestine and the location of GS at the corner of the land bridge connecting the continents Africa and Eurasia, makes it a bottleneck for migratory birds. Also the Passage of many of migratory birds between the Orient and Nile valley takes place through GS. It has been recorded thousands of Ducks, Herons, Storks, Cranes, Flamingos, Waders, raptors, Quails, Passerines and other birds to pass through GS. The most common endemic bird is Palestine Sunbird Nectarinia osea founds through out the year in all months at GS. The same can be applied to amphibian and reptile animals of GS which represent a mixture of African and Eurasian herpetofauna. The largest lizard at GS, the monitor Varanus griseus is an African element in the GS fauna; while the viper Vipera palaestinae is an endemic snake for Palestinian fauna.
Wadi Gaza (WG) is one of the most important wadis in Palestine. It extends for more than 90 km beginning from the western foothills of Hebron mountains and Beer-shaba lands and drain to the west into the Mediterranean sea, 7 Km south of Gaza city. It flows irregularly during and after periods of heavy rainfalls. The study area includes only the western portion of WG which located at GS, about 9 km in length and covers about 4-5 Km2. The wadi bed is mostly composed of sand -silt with organic deprises, leafmolds, small smooth stones and floating algal bulks at the estuary. The area of WG was divided into four sites, from east to west; site one of 2.6 Km length, 50 m a.s.l.; site 2 of 2 Km length, 30 m a.s.l.; site 3 of 2.15 Km length, 10-15 m a.s.l. and site 4 of 2.5 Km length, 0-10 m a.s.l., the width of the 4 sites ranging between 300-500m (Fig.1).
It is worth mentioning that, there are many large pits of different sizes and depths in the current of WG, mainly site 2 and 3. The pits retain freshwaters of rains for several months (ponds). They where created during extraction small stones from Wadi bed, which where used in construction activities at GS during the period 1948- 1964, where the Wadi bed was the only source for those stones. Wadi Gaza was characterized by its permanent freshwaters. The emergence of waters began from mid-site 3 onwards, constituting small streams and brooks. The amount and speed of water increased gradually representing a large lake in the estuary of the wadi, about 1000-1200 m length * 150-250 m width * 1-2 m depth. Indeed, until 1964, WG represent a typical natural dense riverine forest of mixed evergreen and few deciduous trees, bushes and shrubs; predominately by tamarisk, tamarind, zizyphus, carob, acacia, sycamore, sycamine, palm, boxthorn, asparagus, nicotiana, windbreak, cactus, reed, typha and others with few introduced camphor and casuarina trees which clothing the wadi area from the borders in the east to the sea in the west. It was impossible to pass through, not only for human but also for animals, and in the meantime, it was highly endangered to cross some points alone even in the mid-day due to large wild carnivores and snakes. Nowadays, most of the natural areas of the wadi have been transferred to human settlements and many to agricultural fields. Most, if not all, large, tall and dense trees were already disappeared such as tamarisk, tamarind, carob, sycamine, zizyphus, sycamore and acacia.
Report edited by M.M. Al-Safadi