|One of natures largest rodents, the African porcupine
is covered with long, barbed spines that can inflict fatal injuries to
its enemies if they should try to attack. The African porcupine is the
largest of several species of crested porcupine. Like all rodents, the
porcupines teeth grow continuously throughout its life and it must gnaw
at branches and bones in order to keep them from growing too long.
Defense: Few animals dare to fight with the porcupine, except large cats such as the lion and the leopard. Even then these predators have to be very hungry to attack. The back of the porcupines dark brown body is covered with an assortment of sharp quills. These thick, cylindrical quills can grow up to a foot long. Below these banded black and white spines are the short white spines of the tail. When attacked or annoyed, the porcupine raises its spines and rattles them vigorously to scare off the predator. If this does not work, it charges backward at its enemy. The porcupines quills detach easily, and once the barbed tips dig into the flesh of the attacker they are almost impossible to remove. The wounds can become infected and eventually kill the attacker.
Food and Feeding: The African porcupine hunts for food at night. Emerging from its underground burrow, the porcupine moves gracefully along the ground on its short legs with its bristles and quills standing in an arc over its back. The porcupines eyesight is poor, so it relies on its sense of smell to sniff out roots, bulbs, and fallen fruits and berries. Hearing is even more important. The porcupine can hear fruit dropping from trees several yards away. The porcupine holds its food in its front paws. Although it gnaws on bones, the porcupine rarely eats meat. A nocturnal animal, the porcupine uses its acute sense of smell and hearing to find food.
Breeding: The African porcupine is a solitary animal, but it occasionally lives in pairs. It lives in crevices under rocks or in burrows that it builds itself. Although the female produces only two to three litters every year, she comes into season about every 35 days. During courtship the male and female lick each other. When she is ready to mate, the female flattens her body and quills close to the ground so that she does not harm her mate.
After 112 days the female gives birth in her grass lined burrow. The baby porcupines –usually two or three – are covered with bristles and soft quills, which harden a few hours after birth. The mother feeds them from teats on the sides of her body, away from her quills. After two weeks the babies can eat solid foods, but the mother continues to nurse them for several more weeks. The young do not leave the burrow until their quills harden fully. Even then their mother accompanies them.
Related Species: The 4 other species of
crested porcupine in the genus Hystrix are the Cape, Himalayan, Indian,
and Malayan porcupines.
Features of the African Porcupine:
Did You Know:
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