The North African crested porcupine lives on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea – in Italy and Sicily, across northern Africa, and as far south as Tanzania and northern Congo. It is a highly adaptable rodent that lives in many different habitats, including forest, desert, savannah, and rocky areas. Take a look at Kayin, the Zoo’s North African crested porcupine, on exhibit alongside the Cheetah Exhibit in the African Journey.
North African crested porcupines form monogamous pairs for life and stay together in family groups. They’ll either dig their own burrows or take over abandoned aardvark burrows. A family group will develop an extensive inter-connected burrow system.
These are nocturnal animals, so they mostly sleep inside their burrows during the day and rustle around at night, foraging for food. They’ll eat fruit, roots, tubers, bark and cultivated crops, as well as small animals, insects and even carrion. They huddle together for warmth and are less active when it’s cold.
North African crested porcupines are shy, nocturnal animals. They try not to attract attention to themselves but when they feed on a farmer’s crops, the farmer is well aware of their presence!
Some predators may attempt to attack a porcupine, including lions, hyenas, leopards and birds of prey, but few will be successful. Porcupines aren’t easy to attack. When threatened, the porcupine bristles its quills to appear larger, rattles its tail, stomp its hind feet, hisses and snorts. All of this serves as fair warning. If a foolish predator persists, then the porcupine whips around and charges backwards, lodging razor-sharp quills in its foe’s flesh. No porcupine can shoot its quills – although that’s a commonly-held belief – but they can do a lot of damage by stabbing with them.
Sexually mature females give birth to one litter per year of one or two offspring. At birth, the baby porcupines are covered in soft, sensitive bristles rather than hard quills and have white stripes on their sides. Baby porcupines are called porcupettes! Their eyes open after a few days and they leave the nest after one week. Once they’re moving around outside the den, their quills start to harden and their stripes eventually fade. Within the first month of life, they begin to eat solid food. They will remain near their mother, and then in their family group, for several months before going off to find mates of their own. North African crested porcupines reach sexual maturity during their second year.
North African crested porcupines are not considered threatened as a species but are overhunted in some areas. Farmers tend to view them as pests and they are also hunted for their meat and quills, which are used in some cultures as ornamental talismans.
“Bristle Back,” Zoogram, Summer 2007, p. 5.Spring 2007 Zoogram, “News from the Zoo” spread, p. 4.”Look sharp: it’s a porcupine!” special for The Baltimore Examiner, 8/6/2007, p. 27.