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A prickle of porcupines put in an appearance at Belfast Zoo

Date: 27 Jun 2017

A porcupinea at Belfast Zoo

Belfast Zoo has welcomed some prickly new arrivals, as eleven Cape porcupines arrived on 9 June 2017 and can now be seen in their new home!

A group of porcupines is called a ‘prickle’. Cape porcupines are the largest rodents in Africa and are also the world’s largest porcupines. They are found across southern and central Africa, southern Kenya, Uganda and the Congo.

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, said “Our new prickle of porcupines previously lived at a zoo in Spain which recently closed. They had been moved to a quarantine facility in Belgium but we were keen to help by providing a new home for the group. All eleven porcupines arrived in June and have since settled in well. Keepers are getting to know the group and are already seeing distinct personalities. Once the team get to know all of the porcupines, they will be able to pick fitting names for the latest members of the zoo family. Many of our visitors will remember that we were previously home to two Cape porcupine who lived with our meerkats. Unfortunately, our pair passed away from old age a few years ago and we are absolutely delighted to welcome this species back to Belfast Zoo again!”

The Cape porcupine has a crest of long, bristly hairs which run from the top of the head to the shoulders. The back and sides of the animal are covered in long quills. The most common myth is that porcupines shoot their quills. Instead the porcupine raises the quills and makes a warning ‘rattle’. If their threatening posture is ignored, the porcupine will run sideways or charge backwards into the predator.

Porcupines are not facing immediate danger in the wild. However, threats are increasing through hunting, loss of habitat and these rodents are also considered to be pests in their native homes.

These are not the only prickled creatures to have sought refuge at Belfast Zoo recently. The Cave Hill site has recently welcomed two rescued hedgehogs. The pair arrived, following rehabilitation, as both hedgehogs had received damage to their eyes and required intensive care. The pair will now live in an area with Belfast Zoo’s native barn owls.

Hedgehogs are facing increasing threats. It is estimated that populations in the UK have declined by 30 percent in the last ten years. This is thought to be due to the loss of habitat in towns and in the countryside, farming and road deaths.

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, continues “The aim of Belfast Zoo is to conserve species which are under increasing threats in their natural habitat, to educate our visitors about the wonders of wildlife and to play a pivotal role in animal welfare. It is this continued commitment to welfare that has seen us welcome all of our new prickled friends.”

Belfast Zoo works with a number of native species including red squirrels, barn owls, swifts and the Cave Hill site will also soon become home to Irish honey bees! Find out more about Northern Ireland’s native wildlife and habitats at Belfast Zoo’s native species fun days.