As mentioned before, citrus season is a really busy time and we are working 11-12 hour days now. Also, because it is winter – I am leaving home and getting home in the dark. I only see my farm in the daytime on weekends. This all sounds really depressing doesn’t it? Well, it has its advantages too. Firstly, once citrus season is over in springtime, I am going to get loads of time off work till the mangoes start in December. Secondly I get to do night drives on a game farm every night.
Last night I finally saw a porcupine. (I’ll not count the one Mr A nearly squashed on Saturday evening when it tried to cross a main road, we were going so fast – I barely saw it.) This time I was able to stop and watch him scrabble around in the tree roots for a few minutes. Unfortunately it was just too dark for me to take a photo. I have found much evidence of their presence on the farm but in the nine months we have been on the farm I have not managed to see one. I guess it’s mostly because they are nocturnal and I am not.
The African or Cape Porcupine, Hystrix africaeaustralis, is a species of Old World porcupine. It inhabits much of sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the southwestern deserts of the continent. This rodent is nocturnal and inhabits rocky outcrops and hills. They shelter in caves or dens they dig themselves. Female african porcupines are the biggest rodents in southern Africa, weighing more than 30 kilograms (66 pounds) and growing more than two feet long. The african porcupine is covered in bristly quills varying in thickness. The longest spines grow as long as the animal’s body and quills only eight inches shorter. On its tail, the spines are hollow to make a rattling sound to scare away predators. When attacked, the porcupine freezes. If cornered, it turns vicious and charges to stab its attacker with its quills. Otherwise, the porcupine may retreat into its burrow, exposing only its quills and making it hard to dislodge.
Unlike most rodents, the cape porcupine is very long-lived. The oldest animals can be 15 to 20 years old.
Here is an interesting video where some lion cubs find themselves in a prickly situation
Some interesting facts:
- Contrary to popular belief, the porcupine cannot shoot out their quills.
- When they are in attack mode when threatened, they move backwards.
- Most rodents only live up to three years old but porcupines can live up to 15 years of age.
- Their quills are hollow which is why it makes a kind of hissing sound when they move it to ward off predators.
- Unlike most animals where the male takes the lead, female porcupines are the ones to initiate copulation.
- Baby porcupines are called porcupettes.
- They are considered a delicacy by local people and their quills are used in many local decorations.