In a tiny mud-drenched nature reserve just off Road 90, on the way to Beit
Shean, black pin-sized baby fish swarm through a gurgling stream, while their
two-inch gray, slivery parents hide underneath nearby stones.
known scientifically as Nemacheilus dori, are found only in Israel and
exclusively in the waters of this tiny wetland nature reserve, a 0.7-hectare
spot located in the country’s north, at Ein Malkoach.
Israel Nature and
Parks Authority ecologists are doing everything in their power to ensure this
historically endemic fish do not disappear from this sheltered area as
In honor of International Wetlands Day, which occurs Thursday, the
authority decided to open up the reserve – which is closed to the public – to
journalists for the first time on Monday.
Researchers first conducted a
survey of this fish’s population in 2009, during which they found only about 40
of the animals in the stream, according to Dana Milstein, aquatic ecologist for
the Nature and Parks Authority.
“The problem was that we knew the
population was very small and we were afraid to do something that might endanger
the existing population,” Milstein told The Jerusalem Post.
however, they found that the community had increased to about 200, so they
decided to collect 20 of them to study and breed in captivity at a private farm
“In addition to breeding them we try to learn about their
behavior,” she said, explaining that a camera monitors their every move,
something which has alerted the scientists to the fish’s heightened morning
activity, as opposed to evening.
The Nemacheilus dori, who are the only
fish in the stream and join some crabs, mollusks and worms, are very difficult
to see as “their color is very similar to that of the ground and they like to be
under stones,” Milstein explained. They also jet quite rapidly from one stone to
another, she added.
The natural spring at Ein Malkoach is very small –
only generating 5 cubic meters of water per hour – so the INPA created two
additional artificial ponds that are connected to the original by hand-dug
streams, and fill with water through a pipe, parks officials
Now, the number of channels the fish can swim in has tripled,
and the quantity of water flowing is 12 cubic meters per hour, according to
“We hope that the fish in this reserve will increase and they
will reproduce and be stable and will give us enough time to reconstruct or
rehabilitate other aquatic habitats, so that we can introduce the fish to other
places,” she said. “It’s not that the fish are special – this is the only
habitat that remains.”