Lovelorn Porcupine Breaks Into Safari Park in Central Israel

Startled zookeeper thought Dorit, the Ramat Gan zoo's porcupine, had escaped. Not so.

Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster
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Heartthrob Dorit, the Ramat Gan Safari zoo's porcupine, who is still in her enclosure with her friends the owls.
Heartthrob Dorit, the Ramat Gan Safari zoo's porcupine, who is still in her enclosure with her friends the owls.Credit: Tibor Jaeger
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster

The mystery of who's been dropping a load at night outside the porcupine pen at the Ramat Gan Safari Park has been solved by an industrious zookeeper making the rounds one night: it's a wild porcupine coming to visit his lady love.

The story starts eight years ago with a tiny baby porcupine rescued by passersby after her mother had been run over. They brought the wee thing to the Safari Park. The park people decided she couldn't return to nature, named her Dorit, and have housed her in a pen ever since (with three owls, with whom she seems to get along).

Some weeks ago the zookeepers began finding little balls of poo outside Dorit's enclosure – some mornings, then most mornings - certainly frequently enough to irk them at their colleague who, they thought, was slacking, and sweeping her leavings outside rather than collecting them properly in a poo-pan and throwing them out.

Not so. One night a keeper making late rounds saw a large spiny presence outside the enclosure and sounded the alert that Dorit had escaped.

Nobody else thought that particularly likely, and indeed investigation the next morning showed she was present. To solve the mystery of midnight maker and the spiny sighting, the zoo set up a camera. And lo, it caught footage of a great hulking wild male porcupine who broke into the park and spends hours each night with Dorit, separated by bars.

To this day the zookeepers – except for that first one - haven't actually seen the beast, nor do they know where he goes after his nightly assignations. "If he's hiding inside the Safari, he's doing it very efficiently," says Sagit Horowitz, Safari spokeswoman.

Israeli porcupines go into heat twice a year, with the male emitting mating calls that are truly stupendous to hear. Dorit may have attracted the male with her emissions of pungent pee, indicating readiness to mate, as far back as in the fall. Yet it appears that her Romeo only appeared after her last oestrus was over, and for sure, says Horowitz, she' s not in heat now - yet he keeps coming.

Truth be told, the zoo has no clue what to do.

Dorit the porcupine eight years ago, when she was a newly-rescued baby, being fed by a Safari zookeeper. Photo by: Tibor Jaeger

Dorit can't survive outside, so letting her join her lover in the wild is no solution. But catching the wild male and sticking him into the enclosure for the rest of his natural life is no great solution either. For the time being, going by the poo piles, they not only continue to meet at night, but more frequently than ever. We should all have such faithful relationships.

And by the way, the state of Florida has outlawed sex with porcupines. Now you know. One wouldn't think one would need a law against that.

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