Porcupine Babies Born

May 24, 2017



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Utica, NY – Utica Zoo is excited to announce the birth of two African Crested Porcupines (Hystrix africaeaustralis) to parents, Kutarna and Darius. The delightful offspring, known properly as “porcupettes” were discovered on May 1 with their parents. At their neonatal vet exam, they appear to be a male and a female. They have not had their public debut until this week.

Mom Kutarna is 7 years old and has been at the zoo since 2010. Dad Darius is 6 years old and has been at Utica for about the same time. Although the two have lived and bred with each other for about 4 years, they have never produced young before. “When I came in that morning and discovered two new adorable faces snuggled in with their parents I was so excited” said Kristy Bussard, one of the porcupines’ zookeepers. The species has a gestation period of 93 to 94 days, after which one to three young are born, just 300 to 350 grams and about 6 inches long.

Kutarna and Darius were encouraged to breed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP works to promote genetically diverse populations of African Crested Porcupines, also known as Cape Porcupines. These are the first offspring for this pair, although Darius has sired another porcupette with a different female 5 years ago. That animal, known as Joey, is one of the zoo’s ambassador animals in the Education Department.

Porcupettes are born with soft quills that slowly become stiffer, more sharp, and longer with time. “They are born so vulnerable, so we wanted to hold off on their public debut until we were more certain they had their natural defenses in place”, added Pearl Yusuf, Director of Animal Operations. “Because of their size and no protective quills, they could easily fall prey to native raptors like hawks that fly over the exhibit.” Once porcupines have their armor and size, they have very few natural enemies.

The animals will be joining their parents in the Murphy Vulture Exhibit, next door to the lions. You won’t find the vulture sharing the exhibit with them just yet. “We all love Princess”, said Bussard referring to the zoo’s Ruppell’s Griffon vulture, “but we don’t want to give her a chance to misbehave”. Princess and the porcupines will have to time share the exhibit until the youngsters are a bit older. Look for the Porcupine family out on exhibit from 10am to 2 pm daily, after which Princess will get to enjoy her time in the sun.

Utica Zoo Keeper Kristy Bussard holds one of the African crested porcupine babies.