Gnawing tree bark and old bones provides essential minerals to Cape Porcupines and hones their powerful incisors.
Description: The Cape Porcupine is the largest rodent in Africa. Long quills cover its body, protecting it from predators. The black-and-white speckled quills grow up to 50 cm long. They break off easily but grow back rapidly. Despite popular myth, the porcupine isn’t able to throw its quills. The porcupine’s body is black. Females are generally 1 kg heavier than males.
Diet: The Cape Porcupine is a herbivore. It eats fruit, roots, bulbs and other plant material.
In the wild: When cornered by a predator, the Cape Porcupine becomes aggressive, running backwards or sideways in an attempt to spear its attacker with its quills. It also rattles the short quills on its tail. If its assailant still doesn’t take heed of these warnings, it may get a face full of quills. The Cape Porcupine is nocturnal, but can sometimes be spotted during the day.
Cape Porcupines are monogamous. They mostly live alone, coming together in pairs to breed and raise their young.
Threats: The Cape Porcupine is widespread, however, because of its taste for underground food, farmers consider them pests as they eat potatoes and other root vegetables.
Did you Know?
Cape Porcupines feed on tree bark – a habit that may help with the health of the African savannah ecosystem – and even gnaw bones. It’s not because they are carnivore but because of the minerals it gets from them. The practice also sharpens their powerful incisors like a natural toothbrush.