As ponds near the Dead Sea dry up, nature authority compelled to make artificial homes for Jordan tilapia.

By Zafrir Rinat | Mar. 30, 2014

Jordan tilapia have returned to the Ein Feshkha nature reserve, next to the Dead Sea, but not to the natural habitat they have always known.

Agriculture Ministry specialists carried out a special rescue project to raise the tilapia, while the Israel Nature and Parks Authority workers built an artificial pond to replace their natural habitat that has dried up as Dead Sea levels continue to drop.

Two years ago, INPA brought the fish over to the research center of the Agriculture Ministry’s fish division, located near Dor, in an effort to save the rare strain of tilapia. Ministry workers managed to breed the fish successfully and decided recently to return them to their habitat.

The first group of fish returned a few weeks ago to one of two artificial pools that the INPA constructed. Last week, other groups were brought in. Nature authority officials also brought additional tilapia to the artificial pool from natural pools at the reserve that did not yet dry up. Agriculture Ministry officials continue to hold a small tilapia population in their research center at Dor and in the Volcani Center in Beit Dagan.

“The success of this operation will be tested by the ability of the fish to reproduce,” Eldad Hazan, director of the Ein Feshkha reserve, the world’s lowest nature reserve, said on Sunday.

Preservationist have been rescuing fish species in danger of extinction due to drying up water sources in a number of places throughout the country. Just over a decade ago, the Yarkon River Authority and the Parks Authority extracted Lebanon fish from the river’s sources that were about to dry up. They transferred them to Tel Aviv University, where they were successfully bred for a return to the river.

Last year, scientists in the Haifa area collected hundreds of rare Syrian spadefoot toads from a winter pond that was about to dry up. The toads are still at TAU, and researchers hope to place them in another winter pool.