Zoo Vienna Welcomes A Playful Porcupette

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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. 

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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.

Prickly Porcupette Delights at Zoo Berlin


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.


 Photo Credit Zoo Berlin

Alex: Not Your Average Porcupette


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).

Alex PTP


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 hand-rearing.

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.

Love at First Sight = Baby Porcupine for Cheyenne Mountain Zoo


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 addition.




Photo Credit:  Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

"Porcupettes are 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 the exhibit." 

Nale joined the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo family at the end of June 2012, and Elan was smitten with her right away.

"He started courting her almost immediately," Breitigan said. 

Porcupines typically 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 due date. 

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 said. 

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.

Peek-a-Boo, Little Porcupette!


Switzerland’s Zoo Basel welcomed a male porcupette (baby Porcupine) on April 6.  Porcupettes are born with soft, flexible spines, which harden after a few days.  The new baby lives with seven other Porcupines in the zoo’s exhibit.



Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel

Zoo Basel’s Porcupines are clicker-trained, which allows zoo keepers to better monitor the health and well-being of these nocturnal animals, who would rather hide than interact with keepers.  The Porcupines have learned that a click means they’ll receive a tasty bite of food, so they eagerly emerge from their hiding places. 

Porcupines are forest-dwelling rodents that feed on tubers, bark, roots and vegetables. 

See more photos of Zoo Basel's porcupette below the fold.

Continue reading "Peek-a-Boo, Little Porcupette!" »

Zoo Boise Welcomes a Healthy, Prickly Porcupette

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Zeus and Athena, a pair of North American Porcupines at Zoo Boise, had a porcupette on April 8th. The male baby hasn't been named yet. He is doing very well under the care of his mother Athena, and is on exhibit at the zoo. He weighed 517 grams at birth, and had gained 300 grams by his checkup just two weeks later. 

The little male is the second porcupette to be born at Zoo Boise: in July 2012, Olympus ("Oly") was born to the same pair. Mostly arboreal, Athena spends most of her day sleeping in the trees while her baby stays on the ground. She comes down to care for him and to sleep near him at night. Within a few weeks, the porcupette will begin to eat vegetation and will learn to climb trees with her. 

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Photo credits: Zoo Boise

Porcupettes are born with open eyes and soft quills which harden within thirty minutes after birth.  Contrary to popular belief, porcupines do no shoot or throw their quills as a defense.  When attacked, a porcupine will tuck its head between its front paws and turn so their quills face the attacker. The hollow air-filled quills fall out of the porcupine’s skin easily.  One North American porcupine can have as many as 30,000 quills.

Prickly Porcupette a Surprise for Woodland Park Zoo


Sometimes zoo babies are a surprise, and that’s exactly what happened when Molly, a North American Porcupine, surprised keepers at the Woodland Park Zoo by delivering a male porcupette (the actual name for a baby Porcupine) on April 18.

Molly and her mate Oliver joined Woodland Park Zoo in June 2011 shortly after their second birthdays. At such a young age, zookeepers expected that Oliver was a year shy of sexual maturity, but Oliver wasn’t paying attention to the zoo keepers’ timetable. As keepers look back, they now realize that Molly became pregnant in September, giving her a seven-month gestation period before birthing the pair’s first baby.




Photo Credit:  Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

A porcupette is born with a full coat and open eyes, in contrast to many other rodents. Within hours of birth its soft coat of quills begins to harden, immediately preparing it for protection from predators. The baby becomes active quickly and—as a natural tree dweller—its climbing instincts take hold within weeks of delivery. That climbing ability will come in handy as the youngster weans itself from mom and transitions to an herbivorous diet of leaves, twigs, and bark.

Molly and the newborn are currently in an off-exhibit den, though Molly sometimes leaves to stretch her legs in their exhibit. In the wild, a mother Porcupine would leave the newborn to nest in a safe area on the ground and she would retreat to the trees for food and shelter.

In the warmth of their den box, the pair nuzzles close to one another until the porcupette breaks free from her embrace and explores their shared space. Time and time again, Molly will swoop her paws beneath his belly and pull him back to her chest for what looks like a Porcupine hug. 

Shy North American Porcupette Weighs In at Zoo Magdeburg

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There's a spikey new addition to Zoo Magdeburg's family of North American Porcupines: a porcupette, whose sex is still undetermined, was born on April 1st. Recently, the shy porcupette sat quietly on a scale to be weighed, but scurried back to mom as soon as the adventure was over. The baby weighed a healthy 870 grams. Fully grown, North American Porcupines will weigh from five to ten kilograms. 

In addition to the newborn, Zoo Magdeburg has two adult females and one adult male, which live in an exhibit with Black-tailed Prairie Dogs. The zoo's first successful breeding occured in 2003, with the offspring now living at Duisburg Zoo. 

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Photo Credits: Zoo Magdeburg

Read more about North American Porcupines below the fold.

Continue reading "Shy North American Porcupette Weighs In at Zoo Magdeburg" »

Prickly New Baby Arrives at Stone Zoo


The Stone Zoo, part of Zoo New England, recently welcomed a few new members to their collection. Among them, was a Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine that was born just over a month ago on February 16th. The little one was born to mother Comica (14) and father Elvis (6), after a gestation of roughly six and half months. The breeding was a result of a recommendation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine Species Survival Plan, which aims to conserve the species. 

Prehensile-Tailed Porcupines are born with the eyes already wide open, and are able to use their unique prehensile tails, which are used to grip various objects, right away. Babies have dense coats of reddish hair and sharp quills that are around 15 millimeters long. Not surprisingly, there isn't a whole lot of contact between the prickly mother and offspring, and the two only typically come together when it is time for the baby to nurse.  


Photo credits: Stone Zoo

Prehensile-Tailed Porcupines are native to Central and South America. They live primarily arboreal lives, and use their prehensile tail to help them navigate through the forest canopy. In the trees, they forge for their vegetarian diet of flowers, leaves, shoots, and a special cambium layer that can be found beneath the bark of certain trees. When threatened, porcupines will curl up into a ball and shake their spines vigorously to fend off potential attackers. 

Name the Christmas Porcupette Born at Linton Zoo

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Just when the staff at Linton Zoo thought that they were done with baby animal births for the year, they were delighted to discover this tiny bundle on the 10th of December, sporting more prickles than a Christmas tree! The baby African Crested Porcupine was born to first-time mom Halla and dad Henry, who are proving to be the perfect parents, regularly feeding and grooming the little porcupette and keeping it nice and warm under the heat lamp. The gestation period is approximately 112 days and a baby is born looking just like a miniature adult.

And now the public has been invited to suggest names on Linton Zoo's Facebook page. Since the baby's gender is not yet known, they ask for names that are suitable for either a male or female. The person who suggests the chosen name will receive an annual sponsorship of the porcupette. A sponsorship pack can be mailed anywhere in the world. 

African Crested Porcupines come from Sub-saharan Africa and live in rocky outcrops and hills. They are nocturnal and spend most of the day sleeping, waking occasionally to eat. Their quills, which are simply modified hairs, detach easily, giving rise to the myth that they ‘fire’ the quills... but that is untrue. If a predator approaches, the Porcupine will rattle the hollow quills in its tail, followed by a series of growls, grunts and foot-stomping. Only if this fails to deter the attacker will it charge backwards to impale the threat with their spikes. 

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Photo Credit: Linton Zoo

Naturally the new arrival is proving to be bit of a distraction. Due to infrared lamps, it’s easy for staff to see into the nest box without the porcupines knowing they are there. They find it fascinating to watch the interaction between the parents and their new baby. Both Mom and Dad are very attentative, especially Henry, who’s often left to babysit while Halla goes forraging for food.

Watch this video to see for yourself; it shows how really tiny the porcupette is!