Patriot the Porcupine at the Central Florida Zoo
November 29, 2008
Born on the 4th of July at the Central Florida Zoo, this tiny South African crested porcupine was aptly named "Patriot." Weighing 1lb at birth, South African crested porcupines are born with fully formed quills, which are initially soft as hair but harden within 24 hours. Baby porcupines are also called "porcupettes!"
Porcupine affection is a delicate affair.
Patriot the porcupine meets the family
SOUTH AFRICAN CRESTED PORCUPINE BORN JULY 4th AT THE CENTRAL FLORIDA ZOO & BOTANICAL GARDENS Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens guests were able to see the birth of a South African crested porcupine born at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Friday July 4th. The Zoo fondly named the baby “Patriot” for the occasion. “The birth was a bit unusual”, says Zoo Curator Bonnie Breitbeil. “Typically births have occurred overnight. Our staff was alerted by guests as the porcupine was giving birth on exhibit, so many people were able to observe the birth.” The infant was first weighed on July 10th and weighed 501.6 grams (a little over one pound). South African crested porcupine babies are precocial, meaning they are born fully developed and are able walk on their own. They are born with all their quills which at the time of birth are soft like hair, but which harden in about 24 hours. Bonnie went on to state, “In our group we notice that although the baby does spend time with the female when nursing, it is the male and older siblings who spend the most time with the new born.” More information on South African crested porcupines: Range: This species is found in southern Africa as far north as southern Kenya in the east and Gabon in the west. It is also on Zanzibar. Habitat: The habitat is varied including most areas where cover and food are available. Absent from moist rain forests and completely dry regions. They also inhabit mountainous regions up to 11,500 ft. Physical Description: This species, the largest of the porcupines, has a head and body length of 25-34 inches; a tail length of 4-7 inches and attains a weight of 22-60 lbs. The upper side of the body is dark brown, the underside blackish-brown and the throat band is white. The head, neck, shoulders and legs are covered with thin bristles and the underside has thick grooved bristles. On the center line of the neck there is a white erectile mane of wiry bristle hairs that can reach approximately 14 inches in length. The end of the tail has hollow bristles that are open at the end. These are known as the "rattle-quills". Reproduction / lifecycle: Sexual maturity is reached at 2 years. In the wild, breeding usually takes place in the summer in South Africa and from July through December in mid-Africa. In captivity it has been reported year round. Generally 2 litters a year of 1-4 young are born after a 7-8 week gestation. The young are approximately 10 ounces at birth with open eyes and soft, short quills. They suckle for up to 2 months although solid food is taken at approximately 2 weeks. They begin venturing out of the den at 1 week of age. Old World porcupines have an unusually long life span for a rodent, living as long as 12 to 15 years in the wild. Habits / Diet: This species is active at dusk and at night, generally spending the day sleeping in self excavated burrows, rock cavities, under boulder heaps or in river bank thickets with several exits. There are often well-worn paths leading from these shelters to favorite feeding grounds. Although quite agile they are generally terrestrial and are good swimmers. When excited, the porcupines grunt. If threatened, they stamp their hind feet and rattle the rattle-quills. Ground predators include leopards, lions and hyenas although the porcupine's excellent defense is generally a deterrent. When in danger, the porcupine erects the quills and spines and jumps backward to drive the points into the opponent. If pursued, the animal may stop suddenly causing the predator to run into the quills. Porcupines DO NOT shoot their quills, but the quills come out easily. Small family groups generally share a burrow although the female may establish a separate den to bear her young. Foraging is generally done alone except when parents accompany their young. The diet consists of all parts of plants, including bark, tubers and roots, fallen fruit, insects and occasionally carrion. Bones are also often chewed to obtain calcium as well as to hone the incisor teeth. Wild Status: The South African crested porcupine is not listed on the Endangered Species list. However, due to the damage this species has done to cultivated crops, it has been exterminated in several parts of its range. Although the quills are naturally shed, the animals have been killed to take the quills for ornaments and "charms". The South African crested porcupine is the least common of the giant porcupines to be found in captivity. Captive breeding of this species has been inconsistent; however, the CFZP has been very successful.