Africa's Famous Cape Porcupine
by Linda Bading, age 12
With a range of habitats from forest and savannah grasslands to semi-arid scrub close to the Kalahari desert, the Cape porcupine can be found south of the equator. The Cape porcupine’s main defense is its quills which can grow up to 16 inches long. These minutely barbed quills cover both the hind part of the back and the upper side of the tail.
Eating roots, bark, herbs, and fruit, a Cape porcupine can travel up to nine miles in search of food, using its bulbous snout and sensitive bristles. It also chews bones from carcasses to sharpen its teeth in addition to getting calcium and other minerals.
The Cape porcupine does not only use its sense of smell to find food, but also to detect predators. When a predator tries to attack, the porcupine pushes its sharp quills into the enemy. A predator can get seriously injured from the infections that may develop when quills are broken off inside its flesh.
The porcupine usually lives in a group of four kids and adults called a clan. The clan spends most of the day underground, finding protection from the sun and other predators.
Mating season for the Cape porcupine takes place from December to March in South Africa and July to December toward the middle of Africa. A female porcupine usually gives birth to two offspring at a time and can have up to two litters per year. Both parents care for the offspring. By eight weeks, a young Cape porcupine can find food by itself.
[Source: Wildlife Explorer]