Over the next couple of weeks we will be sharing some of the interesting facts around the fascinating and secluded place called: Shakati Private Game Reserve. Shakati  Private Game Reservehas abundant wildlife, plants, trees, insects and other creepy crawlies.

In this article we will focus on the Porcupine, and will share some of the interesting facts around this animal

Article by Johan Fourie, Photographs by Jane and Steen Damgaard and Anonymous

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English: Porcupine or Cape Porcupine

Afrikaans: Ystervark

Danish: Hulepindsvin

[Hystrix africaeaustralis]

Scientific classification: Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Mammalia, Order: Rodentia, Family: Hystricidae, Genus: Hystrix, Subgenus: Hystrix, Species: H. africaeaustralis

What does it look like?

South African Cape Porcupines are classified to form part of the Rodent family and is as such one of the largest rodents in South Africa. It is easily identifiable with it long sharp spines (up to 50cm) which covers its back.

Porcupine females weigh on average between 10 – 30 kilograms, while the males weigh from 15-25 kilograms (Interesting fact: on average the females are a bit larger than the males). The average full grown length is 80 centimetres which includes the length of the sharp spines.

Porcupines coat is dark brown coloured (almost looking black), and its spines are a lighter shade of brown and white stripes.

Porcupines live for approximately 12-15 years in the wild

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Where does it fit in the Ecosystem?

Porcupines feast primarily on: plant material such as fruits, roots, tubers, bulbs, and bark. Porcupines use their claws to dig holes to reach the roots and plant bulbs. In areas deficient in phosphorous they practice osteophagia, or gnawing on bones. These porcupines will often accumulate large piles of bones in their dens.

Their primary predators are Caracal and Leopard , and sometimes lions will sometimes eat it.

When threatened the porcupine then it can raise all the spines with muscles underneath its skin. When its spines are raised the porcupine looks bigger and becomes a less tempting target for its predators, but if a predator comes close then the porcupine will turn around that its back and sharp ends of the spines are facing the predator. During this scenario the porcupine will shake its tail and make a rattling sound. If the predator attacks then the sharp spines can break off and stick into the predator. Interesting Fact: the spines grow back very quickly after it is broken off

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When is the best time in seeing them?

Cape porcupines are nocturnal and thus the best time to see them is on a night drive. Both sexes scent mark their territory, although males do so more frequently, and may play a more active role in its defence. The size of the home range varies depending on the local habitat and availability of food, but can range between at least 67 and 203 hectares

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Breeding 1 – 3 young are born anytime during the year (summer rainfall areas, August – March) after a gestation period of about 3 months.


Porcupine Tracks.jpg

It’s a rodent so it’s a pest?

NOOOO – definitely not. It plays an important part in the Ecosystem. They are often considered pests by local farmers, because they can feed on crops and damage trees. However, their debarking of trees plays a major role in the maintenance of local savannah ecosystems, helping to prevent the development of denser forested environments.

Some porcupines feed on the roots of the Monkey Apple tree, which is a problem, as the Monkey Apple tree provides feed for the Giraffes during winter time.

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Porcupines are fascinating animals, because they have fascinating defensive strategy namely the spines. Sometimes some Porcupines can become a pest – but with good field management they can be controlled. Field Management in this case would be the introduction of predators which will ensure that the porcupine numbers stays controlled.

Hope you enjoyed the first Shakati Bush facts. Please post any comments suggestions or feedback around this article.




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