Porcupine [Hystrix africaeaustralis]
Porcupines are a type of rodent that have long sharp spines sticking out of their bodies. They have muscles that allow it to lift the spines. Their spines are white at the tips with a black ring on most spines. The body of the Porcupine is covered in black-brown coarse hair. It has large ears and fur resembling the spines running from its head like a Mohawk.
Porcupines are vegetarians that use their claws to dig up roots, tubers and bulbs to eat. They are fond of fruits and will also sometimes gnaw on bark. Their intestine and appendix contain microorganisms that can break down plant fibres easily. They have been recorded eating carrion insects in some instances. Porcupines will often gnaw on bones and bark and have been known to keep piles of bones in their dens.
Males reach sexual maturity between 8 and 18 months and females reach sexual maturity between 9 and 19 years old. Mating for porcupines is rather dangerous with the spines in the way. Females will present to the male to initiate copulation. Gestation lasts about 4 months, afterwards a litter of 1 to 4 babies are born. During the wet months, porcupines will keep their litter in a grass lined chamber. The young have soft spines and quills when born that help with birth, as soon as the spine come into contact with air, they start to harden.
Porcupines will grunt when tired, raising its quills. Porcupines can travel on their own or be seen in small family groups. These animals are nocturnal, coming out a night to feed. The big ears of a porcupine contribute to their acute sense of hearing, freezing when approached by predators. When threatened, the porcupine will result to walking sideways and backwards to attack with its spines. It also climbs into holes with their quills sticking out to protect it and to prevent predators from dislodging them from their holes. They have special hollow quills that make a rattling, hissing sound when shook. Most of the time you can find quills on the ground and rarely the porcupine during a Kruger Park Safari.