On December 6, 2014, a Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine was born, on exhibit, at the Virginia Zoo.
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.
Being nocturnal, they prefer to sleep, sometimes in small groups, during the day. At night, they awaken and begin foraging for food. Their diet consists, primarily, of leaves, shoots, fruits, bark, roots, and buds.
A female will usually give birth to a single offspring. The baby is born hairy, reddish-orange, and generally weighs about 14 ounces. The young are born with their eyes open and can climb almost immediately, after birth. Their spines will harden within about one week, and in time, the baby’s reddish coloring will begin to change to creams, yellows, browns and black. Mothers nurse their young until about 3 months of age. The young will reach adult size in less than a year and will reach sexual maturity in less than two years.
Prehensile-Tailed Porcupines are not listed as threatened or endangered, but they are pressured by habitat loss and are killed in certain areas by hunters.