Monday, May 24, 2010

#289 Israel...Thanks Stefan!

This block of 4 stamps was issued in 2007 illustrating Hula Nature Reserve.

The Hula valley has always been an important waystation for migrating birds shuttling between Europe and Africa. Lake Hula and the surrounding swamps were once a habitat for many species of plants and animal, some rare and even endemic.

In 1951 Israel launched the Hula reclamation project. Its planners' vision of turning these 23 square miles of lake and swamp into useful farming land, payed little regard to questions of nature preservation. Yet under pressure from scientists and nature lovers in Israel, who demanded that at least a small part of this lake-and-swamp landscape be preserved, the planners eventually agreed to allocate for this purpose some 790 acres of the lake's area. In 1964 this land was officially proclaimed as Israel's first nature reserve – the Hula Reserve. Representing most lake and swamp pre-reclamation habitats, it nevertheless irretrievably lost many species, including some of the endemic ones.

In the years since proclamation much effort was made to maintain characteristic fauna and flora on the one hand, and to make the reserve accessible to visitors, on the other hand. Nature lovers now visiting the reserve enjoy well-developed footpaths, consisting in parts of catwalks above swampy areas, as well as bird watching sites, intended to leave the reserve's birds and animals undisturbed.

More than 200 species of birds may be seen in the reserve. Tens of thousands of birds, including cranes, storks, pelicans, cormorants, herons and egrets, live permanently within the reserve, joined by huge flocks during migration seasons. Besides, numerous species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish may be seen, as well as a rich vegetation, including some rare water plants which find in the Hula reserve a unique sanctuary.

In the spring of 1994 an additional area of 247 acres was re-flooded, north of the extant reserve, representing another stage in the restoration of the Hula valley. The turfy soil exposed there during the original reclamation, having sunk down below its initial levels, has been seasonally flooded be rainwater, which made it useless for farming. The newly created lake, following this re-flooding, was dubbed "the Hula lakelet". It has rich fauna and flora, and species that were wiped out during reclamation are now being reintroduced there.

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