First Prehensile-tailed Porcupine Birth for Zoo
September 23, 2016
The El Paso Zoo welcomed a new baby into their South American Pavilion exhibit. A Prehensile-tailed Porcupine was born on September 16 to mom, Flower, and dad, Vito.
This is first offspring for the parents and the first baby Prehensile-tailed Porcupine born at the Zoo.
El Paso Zoo keepers are waiting to name the baby porcupine (or porcupette) as soon as the sex is determined in a few weeks.
“Animal care staff were excited getting ready for the first Prehensile-tailed Porcupine birth at the Zoo since they confirmed the pregnancy,” said Collections Supervisor, Tammy Sundquist. “It’s always a joy getting to watch a baby grow and the animal care staff is monitoring Flower and baby closely.”
Flower and her baby are bonding behind the scenes and will be on exhibit next month.
The Prehensile-tailed Porcupines (Coendou prehensilis) are native to Central and South America. They are closely related to the other Neotropical tree porcupines (genera Echinoprocta and Sphiggurus).
Among their most notable features is the prehensile tail. The front and hind feet are also modified for grasping. These limbs all contribute to making this species an adept climber, an adaptation to living most of their lives in trees.
Prehensile-tailed Porcupines fee on leaves, shoots, fruits, bark, roots, and buds. Because of their dietary preferences, they can be pests of plantation crops.
They make a distinctive "baby-like" sound to communicate in the wild.
Very little is known about how these porcupines court each other, and they also have no regular breeding season.
A female usually gives birth to a single offspring. The baby is hairy, reddish-orange, and weighs about 14 ounces at birth. They are born with eyes open and can climb almost immediately. The spines will harden within about one week of birth, and in time, the baby porcupine will change color.
Females 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.
Adults are slow moving and will roll into a ball when threatened on the ground. The record longevity is 27 years old.
This birth is part of a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) to aid in the species’ conservation. Prehensile Tailed Porcupines are not listed as threatened or endangered, but they are pressured by habitat loss and killed in parts of their range by hunters.