The Turtle Back Zoo, in West Orange, NJ has some exciting news to announce! Mommy Porcupine Becky has given birth to a baby Porcupine- otherwise known as a porcupette! Born on April 16, 2015 both mother and baby are now officially on exhibit, just in time for Mother's Day.
Photo credits: 1 & 3 Jeff Stiefbold, 2 The Essex County Turtle Back Zoo
While their Latin name technically means “quill pig,” Porcupines are actually rodents. These sharp dressed mammals are covered with soft hair as well as quills, which are really modified hairs that stand up when a Porcupine feels threatened. Not only does this make the Porcupine look larger, but it also delivers a prickly poke to a predator who gets too close. Sharp, strong teeth allow these herbivores to crack open nuts and eat barks, roots, fruits and leaves. There are about 12 different porcupine species, and they can be found in North, Central and South America; Southern Europe; Asia; and regions of Africa.
The male was born in early January and was donated to Staten Island Zoo by the Bright’s Zoo, in Tennessee, on recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program. The new guy has been given the African name, ‘Bintu’, which means “precious/beautiful one”.
The African Crested Porcupine is the largest rodent in Africa. It lives in hilly, rocky habitats in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Italy. “Porcupine” comes from the Latin ‘porcus’ for pig and ‘spina’ for spine. The name was given based on their appearance, as porcupines are not related to pigs.
Porcupines primarily eat roots, tubers, bark and fallen fruit. They are also known to eat cultivated root crops, and they are considered agricultural pests in some areas.
Wild predators include owls, leopards, and pythons. The porcupine warns predators to retreat by stamping their feet, clicking teeth, growling or hissing, and raising their quills and vibrating them to produce a rattling sound. If the predator doesn't retreat, the porcupine will run backwards and ram their attacker with the quills. Scales on the quill tips lodge in the skin of the predators, much like a fishhook, and become difficult to remove.
Crested Porcupines are terrestrial. They seldom climb trees, but they are able to swim. They are also nocturnal and monogamous. Porcupines prefer to reside, solitarily, among roots and rocks, and will often inhabit holes made by other animals. They reserve the use of burrows for larger family units.
Female Crested Porcupines will, generally, have only one litter per year. After a gestation period of about 66 days, one or two well developed young will be born in a chamber within a family burrow. The young weigh about 1,000 grams (2.2 lbs), at birth. They will leave the den, under adult supervision, about one week, after birth. Crested Porcupines reach adult weight (13-27 kg or 29-60 lbs.) at one to two years of age, and they are often sexually mature just before then.
They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.
On December 6, 2014, a Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine was born, on exhibit, at the Virginia Zoo.
Photo Credits: Virginia Zoo / (Image 2: Meg Puckett)
After several days of close observations, animal care and veterinary staff were not comfortable with the level of care that first-time mom,‘Cayenne’, was giving the youngster, so after much internal discussion as well as consultation from experts at the National Zoo, it was decided to remove the baby from the parents and hand-rear it. The baby is yet to be named and its sex is not physically able to be determined at this point.
The birth of this unique animal illustrates the Virginia Zoo’s breeding and conservation success. This birth is significant because it provides opportunities for Zoo staff and visitors to learn more about these unique animals and their role in our world. It also helps to maintain and support a healthy and self-sustaining population that is genetically diverse and demographically stable.
Prehensile-Tailed Porcupines are native to Central and South America. They are closely related to other Neotropical tree porcupines. Aside from their unspined prehensile tails, their other notable features are: front and hind feet modified for grasping, enabling them to be adept climbers.
The smallest new arrival at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle is a female North American Porcupine, born April 4 in the zoo's Northern Trail exhibit. The baby porcupine, called a porcupette, was born to Molly and Oliver, both three-year-old residents of Northern Trail. This is their second offspring.
Porcupettes are born with a soft coat of quills that begins to harden within hours of birth. This immediately protects them from predators. Keepers handle the baby carefully, using thick gloves to avoid a handful of quills. She has doubled her weight the past couple of weeks, currently weighing just over 2 pounds.
Photo credits: Ryan Hawk / Woodland Park Zoo
Deanna Ramirez, a collection manager at the zoo, explained that the porcupette has access all day and night to the porcupine exhibit in the Northern Trail but prefers spending most of her time exploring in a den behind the scenes.
“She grooms herself a lot and is experimenting with different solid foods, such as leafeater biscuits and different types of browse (plant materials). I think our visitors will begin seeing her more frequently on exhibit as she becomes more active and curious.”
Porcupettes become active quickly and, as natural tree dwellers, their climbing instincts take hold within weeks of delivery. Climbing makes foraging easier for the young, and they exercise these skills early in their development as they wean themselves from mom and transition to an herbivorous diet of leaves, twigs and bark.
On August 28, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo welcomed a Prehensile-tailed Porcupine, born mom Emma and dad Wilbur. There are times, both in zoos and in the wild, when parents has trouble accepting or caring for their offspring. Keepers noticed that Emma was not feeding her baby, and so the male porcupette has been getting supplemental bottle feedings from animal care staff. The parents have stayed nearby and are begining to show signs of bonding with their baby. In the photos, the porcupette is shown bonding with his father for the very first time on October 30.
In the meantime, his keepers are taking good care of him.
"He's a trooper," says Steve Kinczel, a veteran keeper for The RainForest exhibit who has been bottle-feeding the baby. "He's had a good appetite from the beginning." Kinczel, who named the baby Eddie, said he is eating solid food now but his diet continues to be supplemented with bottle feeding four times a day. His diet includes carrots, sweet potatoes and greens along with some rodent chow.
Click here to see a slideshow of many more wonderful photos of Eddie the porcupette, taken by photographer Gus Chan.
Prehensile-tailed Porcupines are born with their eyes open and claws fully formed. Their quills, which are soft at birth, harden in about a week. These porcupines, a group of species native to South America, are named for their special ability to grasp and hang from branches by their tails.
Only a few weeks old and already thousands of quills! On August 4, Zoo Vienna welcomed a baby North American Porcupine. The porcupette is a female and weighed in at just about 1.3 pounds (600 g) at her first medical checkup. The gestation period for porcupines is relatively long, around seven months, so the juveniles are already well-developed at birth. They come into the world with eyes open and can run immediately. At just a few days old, the porcupette had started to practice climbing. Now at one month old, she still drinks milk but also nibbles on carrots, apples, beetroots, and branches. She will be weaned at one and a half months old.
Photo credits: Zoo Vienna
Although North American and European Porcupines might look very similar, they are actually not very closely related. North American Porcupines are the second largest New World rodent, after the North American Beaver. Commonly found from Alaska to Mexico, they are excellent albeit slow climbers and spend most of their lives in trees. These herbivores are crepuscular, meaning that they are mainly active at dawn and dusk. A single North America Porcupine may have up to 30,000 barbed quills for self-defense. At birth, the quills of a porcupette are short and soft, but they harden after a few days.
Zoo Berlin in Germany has its hands full with a baby Porcupine, or porcupette, born on July 24. The gender is still unknown, and therefore the porcupette remains nameless. Though only a week old, the porcupette has large spines. Unlike the spines of their parents, however, a porcupette's spines are soft and harmless to their mothers during birth.
Mothers are protective of their babies. When danger is sensed, they puff up their spines, stamp their hind legs on the ground and rattle their hind legs. Because of their spines, nursing can be a challenge for Porcupines. Luckily, the mother's teets are located under her armpits.
Alex, a female Prehensile-tailed Porcupine born at the
Buffalo Zoo in April, is not your average porcupette. For example, she is awake most of the day
(Porcupines are typically nocturnal) and she spends a lot of time with keepers
(Porcupines are not always so friendly).
Photo Credit: Kelly Brown
Alex is being hand-reared by her keepers due to concerns
about the health of her mother, Taco Belle, also known as Belle. Belle has reliably had babies every six to
eight months for the last several years.
But before Alex was born, keepers noticed that Belle was losing
weight. It was determined that she had a
problem with her teeth and had trouble eating.
Even though Belle’s problem has been resolved, keepers felt that nursing
a porcupette would cause Belle to lose more weight, so the baby was removed for
Zoo keepers plan to utilize Alex as an animal ambassador in
keeper talks and demonstrations. They’ll
soon have to start using gloves to handle Alex:
the soft red fur of her babyhood is being supplemented with sharp quills
as she grows.
Prehensile-tailed Porcupines are native to Central and South
America. They are skilled climbers and
feed on fruits, leaves, shoots, and other plant material.
Nale and Elan, Cheyenne
Mountain Zoo’s Porcupines, are first-time parents! Nale (nah'-lay) gave birth
to a porcupette, or baby Porcupine, on May 8. The baby
was born weighing a little over a pound and appears healthy. Zoo
veterinarians will not be able to determine if it's a boy or a girl for
approximately 30 days, at which time Zoo staff will name the newest Porcupine
Photo Credit: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
born with their quills - they are soft when they are first born but harden
quickly," Roxanna Breitigan, Animal Care Manager, said. "They are
also precocious from the start. Nale's porcupette is active and crawling around
Nale joined the Cheyenne
Mountain Zoo family at the end of June 2012, and Elan was smitten with her
courting her almost immediately," Breitigan said.
breed in the fall and their gestation is seven months long. Zoo staff started
looking for signs of delivery starting on May 4 - Nale's first possible
One of the keepers knew something was up when Nale’s behavior changed one morning. "She noticed right away that Nale didn't
eat on Wednesday morning, wasn't climbing any trees (Nale is an
expert climber, so that was very unusual for her) and was stretching a lot. [She] kept a watchful eye and was there when the baby was born," Breitigan
In the wild, males don't
usually have a role in raising their young, but Elan is being a good dad. He is
curious, interested, remains calm and keeps a watchful eye on his family from
his favorite branch.