Baby Cape Porcupine born at Whipsnade Zoo
A tiny baby porcupette has been caught on camera tucking into carrots and tomatoes and exploring its new home, as Whipsnade zookeepers share behind the scenes videos of the spiky new addition - which was born at the conservation Zoo last month.
Keeper Steve Merrick-White said the Cape porcupine baby’s birth in the early hours of 20 August 2023, was captured on the Zoo’s night vision cameras in the family’s cosy indoor den, so the Zoo can provide 24-hour care for its animals.
“Porcupines are mostly nocturnal, so they usually venture out when the sun starts to set, but thankfully we have night vision cameras which helps us to monitor the prickly mammals even when we’re not on the ground,” he said.
“We suspected mum, Kimya, was pregnant; after being matched with male porcupine Winga in May. And, lo and behold, our keepers had a magical surprise when, 94 days later, we saw Kimya, give birth to the porcupette.”
Steve added that the new family are usually resting during the day but are venturing out to forage for tasty treats of vegetables and nuts in the evening and have been spotted by visitors sleeping over at the Zoo’s Lookout Lodge.
“We won’t know whether the porcupette is male or female until its first vet check up in a few months' time, but the new addition is very bold and sassy. They even wandered over to the meerkat enclosure for a sleepover one night.”
While visitors at the Zoo might spot the nocturnal animals snoozing during the day, Whipsnade Zoo’s Lookout Lodge visitors have been lucky enough to see the baby porcupine snacking and playing with Mum Kimya during the night-time, torch-lit tours.
Visitor Experiences Manager Cat Howes said: “Sleepovers at the Zoo enable visitors unparalleled access to the animals and includes a sunset tour, a torch-lit nighttime tour and a morning tour.
“The baby porcupine has been very curious, investigating what’s for dinner before scurrying back to mum. Seeing a baby porcupine when it’s only a few days old is just one of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences' visitors get when they stay overnight at the conservation Zoo. You never know what you will see.”
Cape porcupines are nocturnal rodents, native to central and southern Africa. They are the largest of all the porcupine species and Africa’s second largest rodent.
As expert foragers and diggers, Cape porcupines are considered ‘ecosystem engineers’, however increasingly they face threats of habitat destruction and hunting. As well as working to protect threatened species around the world, scientists and conservationists from ZSL, the conservation charity behind Whipsnade Zoo, work with communities to protect and preserve healthy ecosystems.
Cat added that, in addition to meeting the new porcupine family after dark, Lookout Lodge visitors can help feed aardvarks Dobby and Terry, catch a glimpse of our new pride of lions – Waka, Winta and Malik – and learn about our multi-generation chimpanzee family as they enjoy their dinner.
“Don’t miss this incredible experience, which takes place from Wednesday to Sunday this October. While the weekends are selling out, mid-week tickets are still available, before the experience closes for the year,” Cat said.
“Don’t worry though, if you’re looking for a unique and thoughtful gift for an animal lover, next year's Lookout Lodge dates will be released on 1 November. Or get started on your Christmas shopping list and buy a gift voucher for your loved one which is valued for 12 months.”
“There’s no greater experience than staying at the Zoo and having southern white rhinos and reindeers for neighbours.”
The stay also includes a delicious two-course dinner, full English breakfast and free car entry to the Zoo.
Guests can then spend the rest of their special day exploring Whipsnade Zoo or hop over to London Zoo to see gorillas, squirrel monkeys and more – as the experience includes two full days zoo entry and includes both ZSL Zoos.