Already squeaking and stamping their feet when just a few days old, twin Porcupettes were surprise arrivals at Cotswold Wildlife Park.
The baby Cape Porcupines, both males, stay close to mom Hannah and dad Prickles and have begun to show their unique personalities. The larger, more confident twin has been named Boulder. His shy brother has been named Shrimpy. The pair recently ventured outdoors for the first time and closely followed Prickles during that big adventure.
The babies are miniature versions of their parents and were born with a full set of quills. After a gestation period of approximately 112 days (the longest gestation period of any Rodent), the female gives birth to offspring covered in soft, moist and flexible quills, enclosed in a thin placental sac. Immediately after birth, the quills quickly harden in the air and become prickly. Porcupines are born relatively well developed with eyes open and teeth present.
Hannah and Prickles were only recently introduced to each other and the care team was surprised how quickly they bonded with each other.
According to their keeper, Hannah and Prickles immediately began grooming each other and slept side by side from day one of their introduction. Keepers hoped the pair would someday have their first litter, but they weren’t expecting babies quite so soon. This is only the second time in the Park’s forty-nine-year history this species has successfully bred.
Twenty-five different Porcupine species span the globe. Their Latin name means “quill pig,” a reference to the approximately 30,000 sharp quills that adorn their back. Contrary to popular belief, they cannot fire their quills at enemies, but the slightest touch can lodge dozens of barbed quills into a predator’s body. The quills are modified hairs made of keratin (the same material as human hair, fingernails and Rhino horns). Each quill has up to 800 barbs near the tip. If threatened, Porcupines reverse charge into a predator, stabbing the enemy with its sharp quills. The resulting wound can disable or even kill predators including Lions, Leopards and Hyenas.
Unfortunately, Porcupines’ unique defense is also the biggest threat to their survival. Although naturally shed, Porcupines are killed for their quills. In traditional African medicine, puncturing the skin with Porcupine quills is believed to heal ailments such as fainting, lethargy, swollen legs and lameness. Porcupine meat is also in demand for its reputed healing properties. Quills are sought after as ornaments and talismans. Cape Porcupines are native to the southernmost third of Africa.
See more photos of the Porcupettes below!