Blog: Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare

Porcupette (Baby Porcupine) Born at Brookfield Zoo

Porcupette born at Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo, is getting right to the point and announcing the birth of a porcupette—a baby porcupine—born on July 2. The porcupette is the first of its species, the prehensile-tailed porcupine, to be born at Brookfield Zoo. After monitoring the mother, 5-year-old Lucia, for an extended period of time, it became clear that she was not going to provide her offspring proper maternal care, as she was not allowing him to nurse. At that time, animal care and veterinary staff made the decision to intervene and hand-rear the baby, who is thriving.

Following a gestation of about 203 days, a porcupette, weighing just under a pound, is born with soft quills that protect the mom during the birthing process. After a few days, the quills harden with keratin, which gives them their sharpness. Baby porcupines are relatively mature and mobile immediately following birth. Prehensile-tailed porcupines are born with a rusty-colored coat that helps them blend in with their environment. Similar to a young deer fawn, a porcupette hides and waits for its mother to come to it for nursing. The baby will continue to nurse until it is weaned at approximately 10 weeks of age.

Porcupette born at Brookfield Zoo

Both Lucia and the porcupette’s dad, 4-year-old Eddie, are members of Brookfield Zoo’s Animal Ambassador Program and can be seen in Hamill Family Play Zoo. Once the young porcupine is weaned from the bottle, he will also be a part of this program, which offers guests the opportunity to have up-close experiences with many of the animals.

Prehensile-tailed porcupines are native to South America and live in high-elevation rain forests. Their long tail is used to wrap around branches while climbing. Regardless of what some might think, porcupines do not shoot their quills, which are just modified hairs made out of the same substance found in human hair and fingernails. Porcupines have muscles at the base of each quill that allow the quills to stand up when the animal is excited or alarmed. Like all hairs, quills do shed, and when the porcupines shake, loose quills come out. The ends of prehensile-tailed porcupines’ quills have a small barb (like a fish hook) that snags the flesh, keeping the quill stuck.
 

Posted: 7/10/2018 2:28:40 PM by Steven Pine


Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare

Read the latest exciting stories about how our experts are advancing the science of “animal-directed” care through innovative programs at Brookfield Zoo and global field efforts.

Syndication

Subscribe to our Blogs!RSS