Yerushalayim is taking steps to guard itself against its latest invaders – rock hyraxes – which have been moving into the city from adjacent desert areas northeast of the city. The animal is thought to be responsible for the fast recent growth of a parasitic disease called Leishmaniasis, which can cause skin sores and internal damage.
The main target of the hyraxes so far has been the Neve Yaakov neighborhood in the northeastern part of the city. The city intends, among other things, to build a fence separating the community from the desert beyond, without any access holes the animals can use to get into the neighborhood.
With further development of the Pisgat Ze’ev and Neve Yaakov neighborhoods in the past two decades, the animals have begun exploring the new environment, and, finding food, have begun taking up residence in the area. Many of the animals have set up nests in partially constructed buildings, but tend to move around quite a bit, researchers said, leaving behind half-eaten food and waste.
Much of this waste is infected with the parasites that cause Leishmaniasis, until now a relatively rare disease in urban areas of Israel. Over the past year, however, 14 people in Neve Yaakov have been diagnosed with the disease, and officials believe that the actual number is much higher, as many milder cases were either not reported or misdiagnosed.