Cotswold Wildlife Park is celebrating the birth of the first Porcupine twins in the Park’s forty-seven-year history!
The as-yet-unnamed and unsexed twins were born recently to first-time mother, Stempu, and father, Prickle. The newborns are currently on show in the enclosure they share with a trio of inquisitive Dwarf Mongooses.
According to Cotswold staff, the twins are perfect miniature versions of the adults, even born with a full set of quills, which begs the question visitors have been keen to ask keepers: “How does the female give birth without injury?” After a gestation period of approximately one hundred and twelve days (the longest gestation period of any rodent), the female gives birth to offspring covered in soft, moist and flexible quills, enclosed in a thin placental sac. Immediately after birth, the quills quickly harden in the air and become prickly. The babies, also known as Porcupettes, are also born relatively well developed, with eyes open and teeth present.
African Crested Porcupines (Hystrix cristata) are the largest of the twenty-five Porcupine species. They are also the third largest rodent in the world, behind the Beaver and Capybara.
Their Latin name means, “quill pig”. Porcupines possess a spiny defense that is unique among rodents: approximately thirty thousand sharp quills adorn their back. Contrary to popular belief, they cannot fire their quills at enemies, but the slightest touch can lodge dozens of barbed quills into a predator’s body. Quills are modified hairs made of keratin (the same material as human hair, fingernails and the horn of a Rhino). Each quill can boast up to eight hundred barbs. If threatened, Porcupines reverse charge into a predator, stabbing the enemy with its sharp quills. The resulting wound can disable or even kill predators including Lions, Leopards and Hyenas.