Other Common Names: South African Porcupine, Cape Porcupine
Genus & Species: Hystrix africaeaustralis
Listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
Southern half of Africa.
Variable. Includes deserts, forests, agricultural areas, and rocky slopes. May be found from sea level to 11,000 feet elevation. Biomes: tropical savanna & grasslands.
Head and body are about 33 inches long, including its 5 inch tail. They weigh up to 60 pounds.
12 to 15 years in the wild, longer in captivity.
Winter food is mostly bark and evergreen needles. Other times of year they eat almost any part of wild plants or agricultural crops (roots, stems, fruit, etc.) and insects, frogs, and lizards. Bones of large animals are chewed for calcium and to sharpen the teeth.
Bold black and white striped quills from a few inches to a foot long are the most conspicuous characteristic of this animal. The quills are raised and fanned out when the animal is disturbed. This behavior makes the porcupines seem larger and more threatening. There is a crest of long, mostly white flexible quills (sometimes called bristles) on top of the head. The sides and belly have soft dark brown to black fur. Special “rattle quills” on the tail are relatively short, but very wide and hollow. When the porcupine vibrates its tail, the quills make a distinct rattling sound. Porcupines do not “shoot” their quills. The legs are short and the body is stocky. The large front teeth (incisor teeth) grow throughout the entire life of the animal.
Offspring: Usually 1 to 2, but as many as 4.
Gestation: 13 weeks.
Parental Care: Female feeds and protects babies for 2 months. Babies are born with their eyes open and with a set of quills that take about 10 days to harden.
- Ecology, Adaptations, Etc:
The stocky body and short legs make running away from danger unrealistic. However, their defensive behavior is impressive: they raise and spread their quills, vibrate their rattle quills, stamp their feet, click their teeth, and back up in the direction of the intruder. This behavior, along with the black and white warning coloration, is enough to discourage most predators. Porcupines have a good sense of smell, which they use to find fallen fruit or edible roots and bulbs.
“Porcupine” means “quill pig.” Some animals kill and eat porcupines, but the quills are very sharp and pull out easily. Quills sometimes dig into fleshy areas and eventually may kill the predator by causing infections or by stabbing vital areas. Human also eat porcupines in some places.