The hose feeding water into the tapir moat had been left on accidentally and it had run all night. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t have been a problem, as the excess would have overflowed into the drain in the adjacent stall containing the African crested porcupines. This night, however, the drain had become plugged with food and hay and the porcupine’s stall had flooded.
When keepers arrived at work in the morning they found the porcupines frantically swimming for their lives. The animals were nearly exhausted—they had probably been swimming for most of the night. In fact, they probably would not have survived but for the buoyancy provided by their hollow quills.
Attempts by the keepers to clear the drain with a rake were unsuccessful so one of the keepers volunteered to go in and do it by hand. It was not an easy task. His arms were just long enough to reach the drain while barely keeping his face (and mouth) out of the tapir manure filled water.
To complicate matters, however, while he was attempting to execute this delicate maneuver, the porcupines, seeing a resting spot at last, were trying to scramble onto his head.
Eventually, the keeper managed to discourage the porcupines long enough to clear the obstruction. When the water receded the exhausted porcupines flopped down for a long overdue rest and the keeper went home for a much needed shower.