The veteran Tel Aviv neighborhood houses two rare species of the small nocturnal mammals
By Zafrir Rinat

Old Ramat Aviv has a stolid image, but its otherwise serene residents morph into environmental avengers when their quality of life is under threat. They prize the neighborhood’s green spaces, and turned positively fierce when city hall’s landscaping plans threatened to endanger the birds, and two species of hedgehogs, that also call the leafy suburb home.

Hedgehog Mission II was launched last month when the Forum of Residents for Urban Nature and Environment in Tel Aviv-Jaffa began rounding up hedgehogs dwelling in Ramat Aviv parks and moving the nocturnal creatures to safety in advance of the tree trimmers.

Rescuing hedgehogs from parks and from construction sites, which forum members did last year, is just one of the forum’s missions. They and other eco-evangelists may find useful the “Guide to Planning and Managing Natural Urban Infrastructures,” published (in Hebrew ) by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

Trees and spiky mammals aren’t the only targets of the rescue drives of the forum, which is headed by Galit Samuel. “We want to protect other types of greenery, including shrubs in parks and open spaces,” she says.

The municipality made a habit out of trimming and even uprooting bushes and other growth, which did the parks’ habitat no good. The bushes serve as nesting and refuge sites for wild animals, she explains.

Samuel relates that on at least one occasion she personally physically blocked a tractor that was about to uproot some bushes. She and other residents stay on alert to head off such efforts before it’s too late.

Among the wild animals suffering from overly zealous city gardening crews are long-eared hedgehogs. Specimens of this rare animal apparently migrated to Ramat Aviv after the sand dunes where they once lived were destroyed.

In addition to rare hedgehogs, the area boasts wild flowers and shrubs. The Parks Authority backs the residents and agrees that it is crucial to preserve the bushes and grassy habitat in order to protect the hedgehog population.

The Tel Aviv Municipality commented that it trims park shrubbery to prevent public areas from being used for unauthorized purposes, and that in any case pruning does not damage flora or fauna if done properly.