Porcupine ( South African / Cape Porcupine) / Hystrix africaeaustralis

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Porcupines run sideways or backwards in an attempt to stab an attacker, causing painful wounds

South African, or caped, porcupines are large nocturnal rodents that inhabit rocky outcrops and hills where they can often be found sheltering in caves or dens which they dig themselves. They have been found in dens which are 20m long with a 2m deep living chamber.

They live in small family groups of up to six members, venturing out at night to feed on roots, tubers and bulbs which they dig up with their powerful claws. They also eat fallen fruit and gnaw tree bark and have been reported to feed on carrion and gnaw bones, presumably for calcium and phosphorus.

Porcupines are covered in quills of varying length and thickness with some growing as long as the animal’s body.

Tail quills are hollow and rattled as a warning to predators.

Porcupines normally freeze when attacked but if cornered will turn and charge to stab the attacker.

Another defensive strategy is to hide in their holes facing inwards with their quills erect that that they cannot easily be dislodged.

Females, the largest rodents in southern Africa, initiate mating by presenting to the male – who approaches very carefully. After a gestation period of 94 days females give birth to a litter of up to four young in a grass-lined chamber of the den.

Young porcupines are born with soft spines and harden quickly once exposed to the air. They are weaned at 77 days and grow rapidly; by the end of their first year they are approaching full size and maturity.