A large and impressive specimen of a Boa constrictor, a long-term resident of our Zoological Garden but which was kept out of sight to visitors had been housed in the reptile yard. Today, thanks to the initiative of Prof. David Eilam and the devoted work of the animal keepers, Barak Levy and Ovad Hillel, in renovating an old cage for display, our boa is housed in a large and spacious cage, lined with leaves and equipped with a water tub, and can now be seen at the end of the first row of snake cages. Despite the Boa constrictor not being a representative of the fauna of Israel, it contributes to the instruction of students and groups of pupils on various subjects relating to reptiles and locomotion. 

There have also been changes to the rodent cages in the northern section of the reptile yard, thanks to the hard work of Barak Levy. In the first cage, closest to the entrance, we now have six Sundevall's jirds (Meriones crassus); in the next cage are a group of ten field voles (Microtus); and in the fifth cage there are two bushy-tailed jirds.

In the vole cage you can see a small version of their habitat. The cage features several chambers, which the voles use to store food or in which to hide. In nature there are tunnels connecting between the chambers, but the cage only has a thin layer of soil, so we can see the tunnels as ditches connecting between chambers or stretching along the walls of the enclosure. The voles move at very high speed along these tunnels, usually after first peeping out from a chamber. They generally all crowd together in one chamber while storing their food in another one. The vole display is part of the large colony of voles, which serves a variety of studies carried out in the laboratory of Prof. David Eilam: Sivan Bodek’s PhD research focuses on the social hierarchy and leadership roles in times of danger; the PhD research of Omri Weiss focuses on the spatial organisation of behaviour in groups of animals; and Chen Rabi’s MSc research focuses on the response of voles to attack by barn owls.

Boa constrictor

The Boa constrictor's cage

Sundevall's jirds

Sundevall's jirds 

vole cage

Tunnels connecting the chambers in the vole cage