STATUS IN THE WILD: Least Concern
RANGE: Central and Southern Africa
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
Adults grow to 25 to 29 inches long and weigh from 20 to 66 pounds. The quills on the neck and back are black and white and can grow up to 20 inches long. They make a rattling sound when the porcupine feels threatened. Porcupines grow new spines and quills to replace those that are lost. The strong front legs have thick nails to help them with hollowing out burrows and digging up tubers to eat.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
The Cape porcupines are active at night, territorial, and mostly solitary foragers, although they can occasionally be found foraging in groups of two to three animals. They shelter in caves of rocky outcrops or dens they dig themselves.
Contrary to popular belief, a porcupine cannot shoot its spines and quills. When attacked or annoyed, porcupines raise their quills and rattle them vigorously to scare off predators. They may charge sideways or backward, detaching quills into the flesh of the attacker. Once barbed quills enter the skin, they are almost impossible to remove, causing the wounds to become infected and eventually killing the attacker.
Cape porcupines are monogamous and mate throughout the year, although births are most common during the rainy season between August and March. Unless a previous litter is lost, females typically give birth only once each year. Gestation lasts around 94 days, and results in the birth of a litter up to three, though single births are most common. Newborns initially have soft quills and are born with a set of incisor teeth. Cape porcupine babies nurse for about three months before eating on their own. The mated pair care for the young together.
This widespread African species occurs from Kenya and Uganda in the north, south through Tanzania and Mozambique, and west through Zambia and Angola. This excludes the coastal region of the southwest.
Cape Porcupines inhabit a wide range of habitats, including savannah, scrubland, and forest.
They are mostly vegetarians, feeding on wild roots, bulbs, berries, and other plants. In cultivated areas, they eat groundnuts, potatoes, pumpkins, and melons.