GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Palestinians have always raised animals such as goats and camels, but one man has now taken up a new activity that is the first of its kind in the Gaza Strip — deer farming.
Majed Sharab, a resident of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza who owns Cardinal Garden, a shop for rare birds, as well as the new deer farm, told Al-Monitor, “I started raising deer four years ago because I wanted to have a farm and a zoo for people to visit and enjoy the many types of deer and several species of rare birds.”
He said, “I learned that someone in Khan Yunis owned a small female European deer and I contacted him immediately and offered to buy the deer for $2,300. I then placed it in a small garden I had next to my house where I kept my rare birds and animals.”
Sharab added, “But I had to look for a male deer to make them reproduce. Male deer are expensive and very rare in Gaza. I had to finally rent a male deer from a zoo in Shajaiya neighborhood in Gaza City to impregnate the female deer. I paid the zoo owner a large sum of money, and six months later the first baby deer was born. I repeated this process until the total number of deer finally reached six — four females and two males. The process cost me a lot, and I eventually had to buy a male deer from Abdul Rahman Zoo on al-Jalaa Street in Gaza City for $3,000 for reproduction. Now I have a male deer [permanently] for reproduction.”
Speaking about the purpose of deer farming, Sharab said, “I find great pleasure in raising deer. I spend most of my time taking care of them and feeding them. Raising deer is not that different from raising goats and sheep; they require the same kind of food such as grass and grains, and the climate in Gaza is adequate for them. Only their physical structure differs, as they are really fast and not easy to catch.”
He continued, “If my goal was to make quick money, I would have sold the deer and made major profit. But my goal is to have a zoo with several types of deer and the best species of rare birds. And I hope to turn [this zoo] into a national project that people can visit. This first goal would be to make a good profit for myself, and the second would be to improve the Palestinian environment by providing such new zoos for people to visit and have fun.”
Although there are many small zoos around the Gaza Strip, they are suffering under difficult circumstances in light of the Israeli blockade. Zoo owners are no longer able to provide new species or even the required care for existing animals.
Deer farming is not easy and requires a lot of effort and patience. A female deer can be impregnated once every six months, and the mating season is autumn. Raising deer and feeding them requires $500 per month for food and veterinary care. There are only 15 deer in the Gaza Strip, most of which are kept in zoos. They are very expensive and sold at a minimum price of $2,500.
Falah Abu Dabbagh, a veterinarian and an expert on animal life, told Al-Monitor, “There are dozens of types of deer in the world that cannot easily live in Gaza. … These animals can only live in the wild where they can find grass and natural herbs. Deer are not slaughtered, although their meat is one of the most delicious meats there is, but it is expensive. They do not live in groups and only gather around mid-October for the mating period. However, when deer meet, the males fight over the females to impregnate them.”
He said, “Sharab needs a long time to adapt to the deer's life and see how their nature changes once they are locked up after being used to living freely in the wild. He needs to make a lot of effort for reproduction because deer mate differently than other animals; they have peculiar habits where fierce fights take place between males over the females.”
Abu Dabbagh added, “This is why Sharab needs to find vast areas to raise deer to guarantee the maximum for reproduction — for the number of deer to grow faster.”
Economic expert and researcher at the Palestinian Planning Center, Mazen al-Ajala, told Al-Monitor, “This is a pioneer idea [in Gaza] and it is one of the Palestinian youth’s attempts to create new economic projects that generate a regular income in order to overcome unemployment, which runs rampant among young people.”
He added, “If such an idea is developed and new species of animals and rare birds are introduced, we would have a large and improved zoo that would play a cultural role for environment and biodiversity researchers, as well as an entertaining role for citizens and children. Such projects could be a lever for the Palestinian economy.”
Developing this pioneering idea requires willpower and official and government support, mainly from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, which is in charge of such projects. They would provide these projects with the necessary financial requirements for it to succeed.