PORCUPINES LEAVE THEIR MARK

It is always fun coming across the odd porcupine quill whilst walking in the veld. These nocturnal animals are seldom seen during the day as they mostly feed at night. Many campers in the Addo Elephant National Park can probably attest to the fact that a porcupine that used to be resident near the campsite would wander through the tents at night – woe betide any potato salad or apples one might inadvertently have left uncovered, for porcupines are largely vegetarian.

The natural diet of the porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis) consists of tubers, bulbs, roots and even bark. Below is an example of the damage to a tree caused by porcupines in the Mountain Zebra National Park. The tree now has a fence around it for protection.

The white and black crest of spines and quills can be erected at will to increase the apparent size of the porcupine in a threatening manner. Some spines on the tail are hollow and make a rattling sound when shaken. These very sharp spines and quills of the porcupine come off when touched by a predator or can be shaken off, but grow back rapidly. Here are two examples of porcupine quills becoming embedded in animals that have come too close. The first is a leopard in the Kruger National Park.

The second example is a Cape buffalo in the Addo Elephant National Park.

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