A baby prehensile-tailed porcupine was born at Brookfield Zoo on July 2. The male porcupette — the official nomenclature for a baby porcupine — is the first of its species born at Brookfield Zoo.
The baby was born to 5-year-old mother Lucia and 4-year-old father Eddie, both of whom can be found in the Hamill Family Play Zoo, which allows guests up-close encounters with the animals. The baby porcupine will join his mother and father there at about 10 weeks old, when it is weaned from its bottle.
For now, the “thriving” baby is being hand-reared by animal care and veterinary staff who made the decision to intervene in the porcupette’s care after it became clear his mother wasn’t allowing him to nurse. Curator Glenn Granat said this behavior isn’t uncommon for first-time mothers of this species.
Mammalian birth and sharp quills don’t exactly go hand in hand. Luckily, Mother Nature looks out for all the mama porcupines: porcupette’s are born with soft, rusty-brown quills and weigh just under a pound. A few days after birth, the quills will harden with keratin — the same substance found in human fingernails — to give them their familiar spiky quality.
A native of South America, the prehensile-tailed porcupine looks a little different from the crested porcupine often depicted in popular culture. Its quills are shorter and lighter, and it has a long tail it uses to wrap around branches when climbing.