Mentioned frequently in the Bible, the ibex—a type of wild goat—was once widespread in the Land of Israel, especially in the Negev desert. But by the time of Israel’s founding it had disappeared almost completely, having succumbed to the proliferation of firearms among Bedouin. Thanks to more recent conservation efforts, however, there has been a resurgence in the population. Alon Tal writes:
The psalmist singled out two habitat-specific species of the Negev: “The high mountains are for the wild goats; the cliffs are a refuge for the rabbits (hyrax)” (Psalm 104:18). The book of Samuel describes a hysterical King Saul pursuing David in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats.
Ibex . . . need to live near drinking water. These water sources were well known by the locals, and the goats became easy prey. The conventional wisdom I heard among the older generation of Israel’s nature lovers was that during the British Mandate, ibex provided the stock for a popular Bedouin soup. It didn’t take long until there were simply none left to shoot. Against all odds, however, a few ibexes apparently were sufficiently crafty (or remote) to hold on.
Once the new state of Israel was established, Heinrich Mendelsohn—the father of Israeli ecology—and his colleagues convinced the government to enact stringent regulations that enabled nature to rebound. Hunting was outlawed. . . . The few surviving ibex enjoyed some respite. Slowly but surely, their numbers grew.
Although wildlife censuses are notoriously imprecise, official government sources estimate that [as] many as a thousand ibex at times roam the southlands and the Golan Heights.