African Crested Porcupine

(Hystrix cristata)


The African crested porcupine is usually found in rocky, hill country but they are very adaptable animals who make their home in most types of environment, though there are a few exceptions. Although they have been found at altitudes of 11,480 feet on Mount Kilimanjaro, they are not found in dry, empty deserts or damp forests.

This porcupine is the heaviest and largest rodent found in Africa. They have roundish heads, small eyes and ears and a blunt, stubby muzzle. Their legs are short and strong and there are five toes on each foot with powerful claws.  Its quills are its obvious most distinguishing feature varying from one inch to 12 inches in length depending on their position on the back and body. The quills normally are flat pointing backwards. When danger threatens, the porcupine raises and broadens them out to form a painfully protective barrier between itself and a predator. The quill tips have scales which act like fishhooks making them difficult and painful to pull out or dislodge. Porcupines do not shoot their quills at predators as is widely thought. When under threat of attack the porcupine will give warnings by hissing, growling, clicking teeth, stamping its feet and rattling special quills.

They will adapt natural niches, hollows and cavities among rocks and roots and will also move into holes made by other animals though they also dig their own burrows when needed and line with grass.

When they are born the infant’s quills are soft, but after two weeks, they begin to harden, and they leave their home for the first time. The juveniles can be quite frisky and playful running and chasing each other. They are suckled for six to eight weeks until they can manage vegetable foods.

Their diet consists mainly of tuber, roots, bark, fallen fruit, and they will also raid cultivated crops of potatoes, carrots and cassava. If they come across carrion they will store it in their burrows for later use.


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