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Animals in Urban Renewal Projects

Hi, nice to meet!

We are your downstairs and next door neighbors

Urban areas are inhabited by cats, hedgehogs, bats, chameleons, lizards, and birds, as well as chicks during the spring to the summer - all are part of the urban nature habitat.

Usually, buildings considered for urban renewal projects are old and neglected. The vegetation has often grown wild. It is common to see wooden planks and old furniture thrown in the common area yards, holes in the outer walls, gaps in the foundations, and more. 

In the eyes of many humans, these places look neglected and abandoned, but for many animals they serve as comfortable hiding places. Holes and cracks in the walls are safe spaces for birds and bats. The space underneath piles of wood planks or between the ground and the building foundation are cozy homes for hedgehogs and cats. These animals live happily among us without a clue that things might soon change for the worse. 

When the heavy equipment and tractors enter the yard to cut down trees, flatten the ground, and destroy the building, small animals, especially bat pups and bird chicks that haven’t yet learned to fly, can’t escape. As a result, they get brutally trampled and run over, dying in agony. Community cats, especially young kittens, older and disabled cats that are used to staying in the yard, will seek shelter under the foundations of the building and die horrifically when it is demolished.

This is a partial list of animals that live among us and whose needs for a safe habitat must be taken into consideration.


Birds nest on trees, in the bushes, and in the holes in building walls. Birds also get into abandoned apartments or openings in walls and nest there. 

In Israel, the nesting season takes place mostly between the months of March and August, depending on the species. During nesting season, the bird chicks stay in the nest, too young to fly.



In contrast to the natural environment where hedgehogs live individually and meet only during mating season, in an urban environment, hedgehogs are forced to crowd into small living areas and congregate around the few food sources.

They are nocturnal animals and come out after dark, except for sick hedgehogs or nursing mothers. 

Hedgehogs almost always live in the gardens of buildings and are attracted to cat feeding stations.

The hedgehog is a protected wild animal and its transfer requires prior approval from the Nature and Parks Authority. 

We invite you to review the contractor information brochure by the English Association for the Preservation of Hedgehogs to learn more about creating openings in the fence for the safe passage of hedgehogs.

Image by Alexas_Fotos

Photo: Community cats in an urban renewal complex in the city of Herzliya.

Credit: Ella Avin

Community Cats

Cats are an essential and important part of the urban ecological balance. Domesticated early in the Middle East and Africa, cats are mentioned in the history of ancient Egypt, where they were considered a sacred animal because they killed pests that damaged the grain.​

In the urban environment, cats live in cat colonies, where they build a hierarchy, find and navigate through safe passage routes and protected places, and learn where to find food and more. 

Other cat communities will exist alongside in nearby streets, and even if there is plenty of food they will drive away cats who are not part of their colony. For this reason, the capture and displacement of cats by both private and commercial bodies, without the exceptional approval of a municipal veterinarian, constitutes a criminal offense.

Insectivores Bats (Microbats)

Insectivorous bats are bats who feed insects. They are very small and feed on mosquitoes and insects that they hunt in flight. The females go hunting at dusk and return to their cubs at dark. Bats communicate using sounds at frequencies that the human ear cannot hear. They live in caves and in the urban environment in holes and cracks in the walls of old buildings. 

It is important for us to shatter myths and superstitions about bats: Bats do not suck blood, do not transmit coronavirus, and are not dangerous to humans. Actually, the opposite is true - they benefit humans because they eliminate pests.

All types of bats are protected by law and by the Eurobats International Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.

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Photo: Rescuing microbats from a wall of old building in Weizman street in Tel Aviv.

Credit: Acro Real Estate and Ken HaTor contractors


The Lacertidae are the family of the wall lizards, true lizards, or sometimes simply lacertas, which are native to Afro-Eurasia. They are harmless to people and can be found on the ground, climbing walls of buildings and trees. 

They are active throughout the day. Their diet includes insects, spiders, centipedes which they hunt and chase. They are small or medium-sized, reaching a length of about 23-25 cm, and weigh up to 12 grams. Their body is elongated and thin with well-developed legs, the tail is up to twice the length of the body. Their color is olive-brown or brown-gray. As a defense, the lizard quickly flees to a hiding place and disconnects the tail. Between March and May, 2-4 spawning cycles occur


Picture: A male wall lizard photographed in a wildlife rescue in a property planned to be demolished as part of an urban renewal project in Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, Jerusalem.

Credit: The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel

Fruit Bats

Contrary to myth, the common fruit bat lives in caves or abandoned buildings and not on the trees. They are active throughout the year and do not hibernate.

Fruit bats live in colonies, feeding on very ripe fruit before decay. They fly every night from their dwelling to feeding grounds that can be tens of kilometers away. As a result, they play an important role in ecosystems around the world, acting as pollinators and seed disperses. 

As part of our activities, we assist people who live near abandoned buildings that are about to be destroyed to check for bats and save them before demolition starts.

fruit bat
קרקע משלימה רחובות-זיקית -קרדיט החברה להגנת הטבע.jpeg

Photo: A Mediterranean chameleon photographed in a wildlife rescue in supplementary land in the city of Rehovot. 

Credit: The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel


Chameleons are found on trees and shrubs, however there are species that live on the ground. 

They have telescope-shaped eyes that allow an almost 360-degree field of vision, with each eye moving separately. Their flattened body allows them to contract, stretch and squeeze between branches in bushes. If a threat, such as a predator or human approaches, the chameleon will retreat to the other side of a branch, tucks its legs under its body and disappear. As diurnal animals, chameleons are only active during the day and sleep on tree or bush branches at night. They feed on grasshoppers, flies and butterflies, as well as on small fruit.

קרקע משלימה רחובות-נחש -קרדיט החברה להגנת הטבע.jpeg

Photo: a red whip snake photographed in a wildlife rescue in supplementary land in the city of Rehovot.

Credit: The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI)


Most of the snakes that live in Israel are not poisonous. They feed on insects and rodents, and occasionally birds. In urban areas, they find hiding places in the vegetation and among discarded items in gardens and yards.

It is important to keep in mind that all snakes are protected by law and it is forbidden to harm them

Snakes spotted in residential areas need to be reported to the municipality and caught by a snake trapper who is certified by the Nature and Parks Authority.


The green toad is a tailless amphibian. It is a solitary animal: when it matures, it abandons its own kind in search of territories rich in food.

It spends most of its time on land and enters the water only for reproduction purposes. It feeds on small insect molluscs, which it hunts with its tongue. 

The green toad is active at night. During the day, it burrows in the ground or between stones.

 קרקע משלימה רחובות-קרפדה -קרדיט החברה להגנת הטבע_edited.jpg

Photo: A green toad photographed in a wildlife rescue in supplementary land in the city of Rehovot. 

Credit: The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel


Swifts are among the fastest birds in the world. Their body structure evolved for flight. Their short legs do not allow them to stand on the ground and are used mostly for clinging to surfaces. Swifts spend most of their life in the air, sleeping and even mating in flight. They feed on flying insects and are therefore considered a highly effective and human-friendly biological exterminator. 

During the spring, they migrate to Israel from Africa to nest. Since they use walls, they can also be seen in the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, nowadays the walls of many modern buildings are made of glass and steel and not concrete, making them unsuitable for clinging or nesting. As a result, the number of swifts in the world and in Israel is declining. 

The Friends of Swifts Association is leading an educational project to preserve the existing nesting of Swifts’ houses, installing new nesting chambers, and rescuing chicks that fall from the nests during the nesting period.

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Photo: Swifts next to a nesting house built in the wall of a building. 

Credit: Amnon Han - Friends of the Swifts

Wild animals struggle to survive in the urban environment

Massive and uncontrolled construction and destruction of open spaces forces wildlife to move closer to cities and towns in order to survive. In the urban environment there are many dangers, including getting run over by cars, abuse, poisoning, and getting trapped in human waste such as cans and in bins.

According to studies, shooting wild animals is not only inhumane but also ineffectual and does not solve the problem. It originates from prejudice and propels ignorance and animal hatred.

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Project Milestones

Our project started from email sent by a small group of concerned cat feeders. They asked to protect cats and hedgehogs in urban renewal


The project that no one believed in its success

They laughed at us, called us delusional and told to collect cockroaches and mice from the yards of old buildings. Despite everything, we succeeded in the legal and public fight and rescued animals from the renovation compound in Naveh Israel neighborhood, Herzliya.


Municipality of Herzliya, Collaborations, the Agreement

A decision by the Herzliya City Council to condition building permits on rescuing animals from the area prior to demolition.

As part of a professional collaboration with the Urban Nature Surveys Unit of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), a wild animal rescue team is being set up for animal rescue action in renovation complexes.


Tel Aviv Municipality, Certificate of Appreciation for Construction Companies

The Municipality of Tel Aviv has approved a policy that requires conducting a survey of animal findings as a condition for issuing a building permit.

For the first time in Israel, a Certificate of Appreciation was awarded to the promoters of the urban renewal project.


Promoting the project in other municipal authorities

Animal rescue in renovation complexes in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  Rishon LeZion Municipality formulates a policy for granting building permits subject to rescuing animals in construction and demolition complexes.

Municipal target:

To get more municipalities on board to plan and enforce urban policies to save animals in urban renewal projects


State-wide target:

To create a state-wide policy that requires rescuing animals from urban renewal projects as a condition for receiving a building permit

The Project in Public Media

Planning and carrying out an urban renewal project while protecting animals

As part of the planning and execution of the project, it is important that the developer gets in touch with appropriate animal welfare organizations prior to carrying out the project in order to locate and capture the wild animals in the compound and transfer them to nature reserves. This includes preparing to safely evacuate nests with bird chicks and bat pups that haven’t yet learned to fly, in accordance with the procedures required by law.


Pruning and removal of vegetation should only be done once the animals have been removed from the location.


Regarding erecting fencing around the site, it is recommended that the contractor raises the fences or barriers 10 cm above the ground to allow animals to escape from the construction site.


It is important and critical to spay and neuter community cats as soon as possible and not wait until the last minute. The municipality should be contacted to set a date for capturing the cats for spaying and neutering. Since most municipalities have long queues for spaying and neutering procedures, this must be done immediately after the developer has applied for the building permit.


In order to prevent cats from dying from the demolition and in the rubble, efforts must be put in place to get the cats used to eating outside the compound, in a safe place nearby. This process should start about 3 months before the date of the demolition, by gradually transferring their food to the alternative area.


Get in touch with the developer and set up a contact person to be able to arrive onsite on the morning of the demolition to perform a preliminary scan inside the buildings, around, and in the yard. If you are unable to perform the scan yourself, it can be done by a suitable professional.

Regarding bird chicks and bat cubs that haven’t yet learned to fly, many times once the tenants leave and the property is cleared prior to demolition, the birds or bats get into the abandoned apartments or openings in the walls to nest. Therefore, to prevent nesting, it is important that the contractor instructs the tenants to close the windows and blinds and not dismantle them. Any removal of bird chicks and bat pups requires the assistance of a professional expert, sometimes even calling for bringing in a crane. Once the building has been thoroughly checked, the holes in the walls must be sealed to prevent nesting until and during demolition.


Regarding cutting down trees, the nesting season, which takes place from March to August (inclusive), must be taken into account. Therefore, trees must be cut down outside of the nesting season, and when needed, any planned activity should be advanced to take place before the nesting season. Please see the NOAH’s policy whitepaper on cutting down trees.


Moreover, it is important to consider the needs of animals in the urban environment in both the planning and construction stages, for example in the construction of underground parking complexes.

To sum up

Currently, many local authorities issue building permits without considering the needs of animals who are also living in the compounds that are intended for construction. There is no national legislation in the field of construction that addresses the treatment and prevention of harm to animals in compounds prior to demolition and during construction. 


Unfortunately, when there is no intervention of animal welfare activists and associations, there is often complete disregard for the lives of animals by the authorities and contractors. This only emphasizes the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the matter.


המלצות לתנאי הסף במכרז יזמים

עלון מידע - שמירה על החיות

תמיכה בפרויקט הגנה על בעלי חיים במתחמי התחדשות עירונית
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