There are 58 species of porcupine in the world, and they are grouped into either the Old World or New World family. African crested porcupines are one of 11 species of Old World porcupines. This family lives in southern Europe, western and southern Asia, and most of Africa. They are large, terrestrial and strictly nocturnal. Reaching up to 60 pounds when fully grown, the crested porcupine is the largest of its kind. Not only that, but they are also the fourth heaviest rodent in the world.

african crested porcupine
No photos
Lifespan

Relative to most other rodents, crested porcupines are long-lived, surviving for 10 years in the wild or up to 20 years in captivity. 

Shape & Size

Adult crested porcupines have an average head and body length around 24-33 inches long, discounting the tail, and weigh 29-60 pounds. They are heavily built animals with stocky bodies, short limbs, thick claws, and an inconspicuous tail. The front feet of the crested porcupine have four developed and clawed digits with a regressed thumb, the rear have five. The ears are external, and both the eyes and ears are very small.

Color Pattern

The body of crested porcupines are covered in long spines up to 20 inches in length, interspersed with thicker, sharply pointed defense quills up to 14 inches long. For the most part these quills are used for defense and are usually marked with light and dark bands which alternate. Their spines and quills are loosely attached so they can easily break off into a predator or shed when damaged - all will be replaced by new growth. Their short tail has hollow rattle quills at the end that when vibrated, they produce a hiss-like rattle to ward off potential threats.

Behavior

Despite being a solitary forager, they live in small family groups consisting of an adult pair with their young. They live together sharing an elaborate burrow system, which they may remain in during winter, although they do not undergo true hibernation.

Habitat

The crested porcupine is found in Italy, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa. In the Mediterranean, it is known from mainland Italy and the island of Sicily, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia; they are also recorded in Ghana, Libya and along the Egyptian coast. It has been recorded from sea level to 8,370 feet in the Moroccan Anti-Atlas. The porcupine was thought to have been introduced to Italy by the Romans, but fossil and subfossil remains suggest it was possibly present in Europe in the upper Pleistocene (126,000-12,000 years ago). 

Principal Threats

While they are commonly hunted by pythons, leopards and large birds of prey, the porcupine is certainly not defenseless. They have acute hearing and will freeze when approached by predators. If forced to defend themselves, they will grunt and vocalize, stamp their feet, vibrate their quills, and aggressively charge, running sideways or backwards, to embed their sharp quills in an attacker. They can't throw or shoot their quills, but the quills may dislodge when used for defense. When stuck into a predator, the quills lodge under the attacker's skin like fishhooks. These attacks are known to have killed lions, leopards, hyenas, and even humans. If given a chance, the porcupine will generally retreat into its burrow, exposing only its quills and making it hard to dislodge.

Unlike New World species in the Americas, the Old World species of Africa and Asia do not have barbed tips to their spines or quills. That characteristic is reserved only for the New World porcupines. 

Hystrix Cristata

Range Map

Range

The crested porcupine is found in Italy, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa. In the Mediterranean, it is known from mainland Italy and the island of Sicily, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia; they are also recorded in Ghana, Libya and along the Egyptian coast. It has been recorded from sea level to 8,370 feet in the Moroccan Anti-Atlas. The porcupine was thought to have been introduced to Italy by the Romans, but fossil and subfossil remains suggest it was possibly present in Europe in the upper Pleistocene (126,000-12,000 years ago).

Food

Crested porcupines come out at night and rustle around in search of food. While they appear clumsy in their movements, they can run fast enough to outpace humans when disturbed. They usually forage alone and sometimes in small groups. Like other rodents, they have a single pair of sharp, continually growing incisor teeth that are used to gnaw and rip tough plant material. They are also equipped with long claws that they use to dig up roots and tubers (like root vegetables). They feed on fruit, tubers, bulbs, bark, cultivated crops, and occasionally carrion. Crested porcupines have been known to collect thousands of bones and store them in underground dens.

Reproductive Habits

They are nocturnal and monogamous. They take care of the young for a long time and small family groups consist of the adult pair and young of various ages. Most of what is known about reproduction come from individuals in captivity. Breeding occurs throughout the year and female crested porcupines typically have one litter annually. Gestation lasts about 65 days, after which the female will give birth to one or two very well-developed young, called porcupettes, in a cozy chamber within the burrow. The porcupettes weigh about 2 pounds at birth and will leave the den after 10 days (in captivity) to 50 days (in the wild). Their quills and spines are soft when they're born, so time in the burrow is well spent and gives them time to harden. Females nurse the young for 40-50 days and will begin to wean them at 3 months old, or 1 month in captivity. Parental duties are shared by both the male and female, and babysitting is often done by the sub-adults.

Behavior

Despite being a solitary forager, they live in small family groups consisting of an adult pair with their young. They live together sharing an elaborate burrow system, which they may remain in during winter, although they do not undergo true hibernation.

Crested porcupines reach adult weight at 1-2 years of age and are often sexually mature just before then, at which time they leave their family unit.

Conservation

As human populations expand, humans and porcupines find themselves in increasingly close quarters. When porcupine populations close to cultivated areas surge, they can become serious agricultural pests. They are smoked out of their burrows and hunted with spears, nets, or dogs. These practices have eliminated them from densely settled areas. 

Porcupine quills and spines have long been a favorite ornament and good luck charm in Africa. The hollow rattle quills serve as musical instruments and were once used as containers for gold dust. They are also targeted and illegally hunted for their meat.

Groups like the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) educates communities about the importance of sustainable practices for agricultural and settlement growth by providing training on best practices and incentivizing conservation agriculture when appropriate. AWF engages local communities to set aside land for wildlife to live undisturbed. In the Laikipia region of Kenya, which has no formal protected areas, they partnered with the Koija community and a private operator to construct the Koija Starbeds Lodge. Koija Starbeds sets aside land for wildlife while also creating jobs and income for the local community. To learn more about the African Wildlife Foundation, visit their website at www.awf.org

Fun Facts

  • Weighing up to 65 lbs, African crested porcupines are the largest of their kind.
  • Topped only by the capybara, North American beaver and Eurasian beaver, crested and cape porcupines are the fourth largest rodents in the world.
  • While they might appear clumsy, if properly motivated by a potential threat, this species can outpace a human.
  • Their quills can measure more than 20 inches long, while their spines from to more than a foot in length. 
  • Crested porcupines have been known to collect thousands of bones and store them underground in a chamber or cave.
  • Baby porcupines are called porcupettes.
  • Porcupine comes from the Latin porcus for pig and spina for spine, meaning literally "spiny pig". 

About Carolina Tiger Rescue

Carolina Tiger Rescue is a 501(c)3 nonprofit wildlife sanctuary whose mission is saving and protecting wild cats in captivity and in the wild.

Carolina Tiger Rescue

1940 Hanks Chapel Rd. Pittsboro, NC 27312 (919) 542-4684 (919) 542-4454 info@carolinatigerrescue.org

Wildlife should be in the Wild

Rescue

Education

  • We believe the ideal home for wildlife is in the wild.
  • We believe it is critical to conserve their native habitats.
  • We believe wild animals should not be kept as pets.
  • We believe captive breeding should ONLY be done in accordance with Species Survival plans.
  • We believe all wild animals, both captive and in their native habitats, deserve to be treated with respect and not exploited for entertainment and commercial purposes.

Visit Carolina Tiger Rescue

Tiger at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Public Tours

Twilight Tours

Coming out for a tour is a great way to learn more about the animals that call Carolina Tiger Recue home. We offer many different types of tours.  Public tours are great for adults and families. Twilight tours are for adults only (18 years of age and older). Tiger Tales are a perfect option if you want to bring out really young children. Find the tour that is right for you and enjoy a walk through the sanctuary.

For all tours, tickets must be purchased in advance.

Have Fun Learning at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Field Trips

Field Trips

Virtual Field Trips link

Virtual Field Trips

Education is key to our mission.  We enjoy teaching "kids" of all ages!  Our field trips, both virtual and onsite, are ideal for groups of kids.  Our "Kid for a Day" Adult Camp provides a unique learning opportunity while allowing adults to channel their inner child.  While all of these opportunities are structured differently, in the end we want everyone to walk away knowing more about the animals we care for and what they can do to help protect them.

Our Rescues
Bobcat at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
BOBCATS
Caracal at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
CARACALS
Coatimundi at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
COATIMUNDIS
Cougar at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
COUGARS
Kinkajou at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
KINKAJOUS
In Memoriam
Leopard at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
LEOPARDS
Lion at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
LIONS
Ocelot at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
OCELOTS
Serval at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
SERVALS
Tiger at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
TIGERS
Animals
Games
Activities
Keeper Stripes

Get involved at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Individual volunteering at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Individual Volunteering

Group volunteering at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Group Volunteering

There are so many ways to be a part of Carolina  Tiger Rescue.  Individual volunteers are able to help in many aspects of our work, including animal care, tour guides, construction, and gift shop assistance.  Work groups come from community groups, colleges, work places, and more!  It’s a great way to spend a day and it helps care for the cats.