Do you know what the largest rodent in South Africa is?

You never know what you will find in the African bush, especially if you decide to explore it on foot. There are so many creatures hiding away, all minding their own business. It is just a matter of what creature you will bump into next.

Let us give you a few hints…

On one particular warm sunny day, whilst on a bush walk through the magical Fever tree forest with our group of students, I heard a rustling noise coming from the bushes. I left the students in the capable hands of the back-up guide and decided to investigate the sound. I went down on my belly and leopard crawled to where the noise was coming from.

Mentally preparing myself for whatever was coming, I peered under the bush and Whoa!! Looking back at me was from the dark corner was a magnificent, yet scarce animal. Can you guess what it could be yet? Normally these animals are nocturnal and in broad daylight, I was eye to eye with the biggest rodent in Africa.

Have you guessed what animal it is?

It was a Porcupine!

Porcupine (c) Cape Point Route

Here are some interesting facts about this incredible animal.

The Porcupine is a nocturnal (night active) animal and they live in some sort of burrow that is usually created by aardvarks while they are looking to feast on termites.

Teeth structure

They are classifieds a rodent because of several reasons but mainly due to their tooth structure. All rodent teeth never stop growing. They need to chew or (knag) on something all the time to keep their teeth short, otherwise, their teeth will grow so long that they can’t eat any more. That is the main reason why rats and mice chew on everything that they can find in a house.

Porcupine gnaw marks (c) Steve Baillie

Self-protection

Their quills are made out of keratin, the same material your nails, hair and rhino horn is made of. People believe that porcupines can shoot out there quills to protect them self. This is not true. They cannot shoot out their quills but the can run very fast and stop suddenly with their quills upwards. Porcupines will run away from whatever is chasing them, then suddenly stop and move backwards while the predator is in full chase. The unsuspecting predator will run into the quills and be covered in the painful nest of the porcupine’s quills.

Porcupine using its quills for protection (c) dailymail.co.uk

What about mating?

As you can imagine, mating can be a bit difficult when your whole body is made up of sharp quills but when the porcupine isn’t in danger, the quills will lay flat over the back of the porcupine. Although it is still a challenging activity, they do manage one way or another. The gestation (pregnancy) period of a porcupine is around eight weeks. Usually, one or two porcupettes are born, with their eyes wide open and already equipped with quills that will harden within twenty to forty minutes after birth. Incredible right?

Baby porcupine (c) Zooborns

Next time you go out on a night drive, be sure to look out for this incredible creature while they are foraging for food. Their ability to survive in the wild is absolutely extraordinary, especially when taking on big predators like leopard and lion.