Fauna and Flora

The Negev higland's eco-system is characterized by a wide range of unique biodiversity functioning under extreme environmental conditions related to temperature and water stresses.

Fauna

In the Negev highland, there are 21 species of land snails, 41 species of reptiles, 55 species of mammals, 201 species of nesting birds and 30 species of butterflies.

In Makhtesh Ramon there are fewer species due to the harsher conditions.

A partial list of the animals wondering the region is listed below. It is highly unlikely that you will come across even half of these but those you will see are sure to thrill you.

Nubian ibex – This animal was in danger of becoming extinct in  Israel,  and was saved by the 1964 Wild  Animals  Protection  Law.  Its muscular body and special leg structure enable it to negotiate the steep rocky cliffs.  It is difficult to spot Nubian ibexes  when they are moving from cliff to cliff,  but quite easy when they stop for a drink of water.
Leopard  –  The Negev highlands is one of the only places in Israel with a small yet vital population of this nocturnal feline. 
Striped hyena  –  The striped hyena is a large canine scavenger. 
Caracal  – Recognizable by the large tufts of hair at the tips of its ears, the caracal is a large nocturnal feline.
Syrian hyrax – A small, brown-furred diurnal mammal, the Syrian hyrax lives in large groups between the rocks. 
Lappet-faced vulture –  This predatory subspecies is endemic to the Ramon region. The population of lappet-faced vultures was wiped out in the Negev, but perhaps can be revived,  thanks to specimens which survived on the Arabian Peninsula. 
Atractaspis engaddensis – This relatively thin,  poisonous snake grows up to 80 centimeters long.  The  species  is  endemic  to  Israel  and  the Sinai Desert. 
Poekilocerus  bufonius  –  Black  with  yellow  dots,  this  grasshopper  eats poisonous  plants  from  the  milkweed  family,  from  which  it  produces its venom.  
Dorcas gazelle - The dorcas gazelle, or mountain gazelle, is smaller than the  Gazella  gazella  found  elsewhere  in  Israel.  This  population  was endangered  in  the  1960s,  but  was  saved  thanks  to  the  Wild  Animals Protection Law.
Sand  fox  –  The  diet  of  this  small  nocturnal  fox  is  varied:  bugs,  small rodents, fruits, and vegetables. 
Fat  desert  rat  –  The  saltbush  is  the  mainstay  of  the  diet  of  this  large diurnal  rodent.  If  fed  sugar-rich  food,  the  fat  desert  rat  will  develop diabetes.
Uromastyx aegyptius – This herbivorous, diurnal  agama can  grow  to be up to 75 centimeters long. 
Cairo  spiny  mouse  –  The  body  of  this  mouse-sized  diurnal  rodent  is covered with sharp bristles. 
Sand partridge – A characteristic desert bird, the sand partridge nests on the ground. Because of its heavy body, the sand partridge cannot fly far, and skirts danger by flying from one bank of the wadi to the other. 
Lesser  bustard  –  This  large  terrestrial  bird  lives  primarily  in  open areas.  The  lesser  bustard  was  hunted  in  the  past  because  its  meat was  considered  a  delicacy.  It  still  appears  on  the  list  of  endangered species.

Flora

The large wadis in the Negev highland have a wealth of flora,  including buckthorn, globe daisy, and woundwort.  In the spring you can see lovely flowers in bloom, such as tulip, Jacob's rod, and anemone.

One of the remarkable features of this habitat is the occurrence of large Pistacia Atlantica trees at high elevations. Carub trees and Sumacs can also be found.

Since a great deal of water drains into the wadis, acacia trees can live there.  Boxthorn,  ochraceous,  broom, moricandia, cattail, and reed grow near the acacias.  Saltwort,  a  plant with small, scaly leaves, is found where the ground is rich in gypsum.

Within the central Negev Highlands, there are approximately 32 species of plants that are considered within the red list of endangered species of Israel.

Many different types of plants grow on the Ramon Ridge, with those of Irano-Turanian  (central  Asian) origin predominating.  The bitter winter cold delays the main flowering season to late winter and spring when the flowers bloom with amazing beauty.

The desert springs also produce a special habitat.  Cattails and reeds grow tall near the fresh water. The rush, whose leaves have needle-like points,  is evidence that there is groundwater close by, even if none is visible. 

Farther from the water, especially in places where the ground is rather salty, you can spot nitraria,  a plant with fleshy leaves,  a grayish cast, and sweetish red fruit.  Spiky camel-thorns and tamarisk trees grow near the nitraria. The small salt crystals dotting their leaves illustrate that they are equipped to actively rid themselves of the excess salt in the ground.

About  10 percent of the rocky surface of the Ramon Ridge is covered by bushes and shrubs.  Wormwood,  a  grayish, highly fragrant shrub, can be seen almost everywhere.  Bedouin folk medicine uses wormwoods to relieve stomach-aches and congestion. 

The steep cliff facing the makhtesh is a vertical habitat and therefore does not benefit from runoff water.  Not surprisingly, typical desert plants, such as Zygophyllum and gymnocarpous, are found here. Nonetheless, some characteristic Mediterranean flora, for example, caper,  sprout in the crevices. Desert shrubs, including gymnocarpous and Anabasis, are the flora most commonly seen on the basalt stone, as well as on the limestone and sandstone in the makhtesh.

The makhtesh floor is drier and hotter than the ridge. Saharo-Indian flora (originating in the Sahara Desert and the deserts of the  Arabian  Peninsula) are most commonly seen here.