As Passover approaches, we had an emergency at The Biblical Museum of Natural History with one of our hyraxes. Hyraxes are very unusual mammals; they superficially resemble large groundhogs, but are actually most closely related to elephants! Called shafan in Hebrew, the hyrax is listed in Leviticus 11:5 as being non-kosher. Hyraxes are also mentioned in Proverbs and Psalms, where they are described as hiding in the rocky mountains where ibexes climb.  At The Biblical Museum of Natural History, we have an artificial small mountain with mounted ibex on it, and a pair of hyraxes living in an enclosure built into the mountain.The problem started yesterday with the female hyrax, whom we have suspected for a while of being pregnant. She was extremely unwell, and could not even leap up to her usual cave. She barked and bared her tusks at anyone who approached. The vet recommended immediate transportation for surgery. Catching fifteen pounds of angry, snarling hyrax was no easy feat, but we eventually managed to do it, and took her to the veterinary hospital.

MayaHyraxIt turned out that she was indeed pregnant, but things were very bad. Her uterus had collapsed, which meant that her babies were probably dead and she herself was in great danger. The vets did an emergency c-section, and found five still little bodies inside. The head surgeon lamented that it was too late – the babies had no heartbeat and were certainly dead. But the other vet, who has been working with us for a while, did not give up. She attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on them, desperately trying to revive them. And she was able to bring three of them to life!

The mother has no milk, so we are hand-raising them. Here’s hoping that they thrive! Meanwhile, you can read all about hyraxes in the new Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom!

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