Hystrix Africaeaustralis

STATUS: Least concern


Prickle-Pierre or Pierre for short is our Cape porcupine that lives with our meerkats. Being Nocturnal, he is one of the harder species to see around the park, but he is a big favourite with our keepers.


Cape porcupines are found across the whole of southern and central Africa, to southern KenyaUganda, and Congo at the northern edge of their range. They inhabit a wide range of habitats, from sea level to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), although they are only marginally present in dense forests and the driest of deserts, and are not found in swampland.


Cape Porcupines are omnivores, mainly eating fruit, roots, bulbs and other plant material. They will occassionally eat insects and small vertebrates


Cape porcupines mate throughout the year. After a period of around 94 days the female will give birth. She will give birth to one, two, or three young, known as porcupettes. At birth they will weigh only 3% of their mother’s weight.


The Cape porcupine population seems to be stable right now. Potential threats include habitat destruction and being hunted as pests by locals.


  • All porcupines (and the Cape porcupine is no exception) have banded quills which are essentially their hairs. Those on the back may be 40cm long; the shorter, open-ended tail quills will rattle as a warning.
  • Contrary to popular myth, a porcupine’s quills will not fire at enemies but rather will loosely embed in their skin and they easily shed on contact. When threatened, a porcupine erects its quills and backs towards its assailant. Consequently, careless predators may end up with quills so deeply embedded that fatal wounds can develop.
  • Porcupines feed on roots, bulbs and bark. As a result, their habit of fatally ring-barking trees has a significant ecological impact because it helps open up woodland into savanna.
  • Porcupines often gnaw bones because they need their minerals and also to sharpen their powerful incisors.
  • Porcupines form monogamous pairs, which mate throughout the year. The male plays an unusually active role in raising the litter of 2–4 young. Each pair may inhabit up to six burrows and jointly defend its shared territory.