TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Each spring, Hayarkon Park in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv comes alive with joggers, children playing on jungle gyms, young families and 20-somethings picnicking and sunbathing.
These days, virtually the only sign of life in the park is the jackals.
With Tel Aviv in lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis, the sprawling park is all but empty. This has cleared the way for packs of jackals to take over this urban oasis in the heart of the city.
The animals arrive just before nightfall. While they may look like they’re having fun, lying in the grass and chasing after one another, Zvi Galin, director of the city’s veterinary department, says they are desperately looking for food.
He says the jackals are scavengers that normally live on the edges of the park and subsist on food scraps left behind by humans. Now that the park, like most of the city, is nearly empty, the timid animals have come into the open, reaching areas where they rarely venture as they search for food.
“They don’t have food, so they come a little bit earlier and they are going for longer distance to look for food,” Galin said.
The coronavirus has brought out wildlife in other parts of Israel as well. In the northern city of Haifa, wild boar have been spotted on city streets. Ibex, or wild mountain goats, have taken over the boardwalk in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat.
Galin estimates that about 100 jackals live in Hayarkon Park. He said they are afraid of people and usually tend to keep their distance.
However, on a recent evening, people approached the jackals and left plates of dog food for them. The animals quickly converged and fought over the welcome feast.
But Galin said it is important that people don’t feed the jackals or they could get used to mingling with humans and become aggressive if they aren’t fed.
“People have to understand that they are going to stay with us,” Galin said.