Kharanoo, the best pet ever, was found once lonely passing an overcrowded street in Tehran.
It was a 7th of July, right before my departure to Norway, when I received a phone call: “Nima! I found a lovely creature! You have no idea how cute!” My sister excitedly said: “We don’t know how to feed it. What does a hedgehog eat?”. She was really worried and I should have taken care of the emergency situation: “- How on earth should I know what hedgehogs eat?!”. I answered wisely and hanged up!
At night we had already started to call societies of animal protection in the capital and some related NGOs but no useful information. I even called an NGO that we had tried recently when Mishoolak, a found kitten, died due to drinking fat cow milk according to their advice. The lady over the phone said: “- Sorry, We know nothing about hedgehogs. We’re cat professionals!”.
Some others were more informative: “- You might find a local zoo!”. A zoo? Good idea. The closest one was Darabad museum of Iranian natural history, full of snakes. We discussed and finally suspected that if they can’t manage to find room for Kharanoo, their disgusting reptiles will have a dinner party over Kharanoo. Never!
Thankful of everyone’s hospitality, he survived. Kharanoo made it finally, being treated to dead insects, cat food, and water. He became a part of the family, sleeping in daylight and clattering at nights. He was a hunter, or at least was pretending to be harmful to cockroaches. He was really polite but too shy. Whenever we entered the room, by turning on lights on he would run away and hide himself for hours! But despite all the cultural differences, he was happy and we were happy with his happiness.
Kharanoo was really fast in response to auditory stimuli. You could make him dance with any rhythm, just if simplified to a bunch of click sounds:
One week before I left Iran, We made a farewell trip with my parents and my sister. To the green lands in the north of the Alborz mountains. We had concluded that Kharanoo is an Erinaceus Concolor (known as “European hedgehog” in Iran). Google had informed us that they are widely spread in the southern woods of the Caspian sea, where we were heading to. We took Kharanoo with us to set him free.
We loved each other but he had to continue his natural life with creatures of his own type. We offered him food, shelter and security but no nature, friends or relationship. Though he was not very social, we knew he will take care of the rest if we leave him were he belongs.
Honestly, I was mostly thinking of myself. He was not the only migrant in the scene. Becoming dramatically nostalgic I was more in love with my homeland than ever before and really didn’t want to leave it to elsewhere. Eventually under the moonlight, He became a symbol of immigration for me. Each time I missed home after that night Kharanoo was present in the back of my mind!
Let’s get back to Kharanoo. We went deep in to the forests and set him free. He left us to find friends and start a new life…
Every thing was fine! At least for us. But sadly, this was not the end of the story.
Last week I was back home again, forgetting all about symbolic aspects of Kharanoo: migration. I was flipping pages of a reference book, “Mamals of Iran”, something laying there that I had missed out. And suddenly the bitter truth revealed itself…
Kharanoo was not an Erinaceus Concolor. He was a Paraechinus Hypomelas (known as Brandt’s hedgehog). The crazy thing is that the geographic range of those two look-alikes in the map was just partitioned with no intersection! Two completely opposite climates. One species lives exactly where the other does not, as if they have divided the country to their territories! Those who have been to Iran know how different climates these two regions have…
We had confidently taken the poor thing from the dry ecosyatem he belonged to, leaving him in the foggy forests of the north.
Kharanoo, you have my guilt… and my love, forever!