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Porcupine Training

For this week’s View from the Zoo we are going to tell you about a particular animal that we have to be very, very careful with! Our two Cape Porcupines have been going through a very special training regime over the past few weeks. Our male is 10 years old and he is called Grumpy! Whilst our female is 8 years old and called Mrs Prickles!

She has gained the name through the extremely sharp quills made up of hair which act as spikes that all porcupines use to deter any predators. Porcupines are nocturnal so you may notice our two snoozing inside their house for most of the day but they do occasionally wander out in their outdoor enclosure. They live alongside our meerkats and their diet is predominantly a wide variety of vegetables.

Their training is called target training. This involves a target stick for the porcupines to place their nose against. This is followed by the use of a clicker which tells the porcupine they have done the correct behaviour and will receive their favourite treat as a reward. Grumpy loves parsnips whilst Mrs Prickles favourite is raw potatoes. They also receive a specialised pellet which is full of nutrition and also taste delicious to them. As target training progresses is allows us to guide them onto scales or crate train them so they are used to being in crates for transport. Grumpy is more confident and weighs around 15 kilograms. Surprisingly heavy for a rodent! This training is all for the animal’s health and welfare and can be done with all sorts of different species. It also allows the animals to become more comfortable and confident around their keepers.

Cape Porcupines originally come from Southern Africa and prefer territory that have rocky out-crops, caves, exposed tree roots and disused burrows however they can use their claws to dig. Unlike other rodents, a porcupine’s life span can range from between 15 to 20 years. In the wild their predators include leopards, lions, and hyenas. Their array of spines and quills acts as a significant deterrent and they are generally able to fend off any fatal encounters. If they feel threatened first they would remain perfectly still but if the threat continues they would become very aggressive, making grunting noises, stamping their feet and rattling their hollow quills. They can also raise up their quills making themselves appear larger and more dangerous.

Above is a picture of our keeper Becky in action target training Grumpy our male Porcupine. With successful training he isn’t grumpy at all in her presence!

 

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