The Brookfield Zoo is happy to announce that, on Monday, July 2, porcupines Lucia and Eddie proudly welcomed a newborn son. The adorable little one weighed just about one pound at birth, and has a rusty-colored coat to help him blend in with the environment.
The baby porcupine, aka the porcupette, is the first of his species to be born at the Illinois zoo, which is located just outside of Chicago.
The as-yet-to-be-named sweetie is a prehensile-tailed porcupine, which is a species native to the tropical rainforests of South America.
“They get their name because of that beautiful prehensile tail,” Ryanne Hanley of the Dallas Zoo recently told North Texas’ CBS 11 News. “Prehensile just means using to grab and grasp on.”
Since these porcupines like to hang out in treetops, Hanley said their hook-like tails “wrap around those tree branches and hold on tight to make sure [they don’t] lose control or fall out of those trees.”
The nocturnal animal was born with soft quills, but they have since hardened from the keratin he produces.
However, contrary to popular belief, porcupines do not shoot their sharp quills — they just stick them straight up when they feel threatened so other animals won’t mess with them.
Right now, the porcupette is being taken care of by the zoo’s loving veterinary and animal care staff members as Lucia, his 5-year-old mother, wasn’t allowing him to properly nurse.
The wee one is being bottle-fed (as shown in the picture below). When he is about 10 weeks old, he will be weaned off of the bottle.
Prehensile-tailed porcupines are herbivores, according to Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. In the wild, they will eat “leaves, flowers, shoots, roots, and the cambium layer found beneath the bark of some trees.”
Both Lucia and 4-year-old dad Eddie are part of the Brookfield Zoo’s Animal Ambassador Program. As an ambassador, the porcupines, who are usually found in the Hamill Family Play Zoo, are taken out into public areas by zookeepers so they can greet visitors up close in order for the humans to learn more about the animals.
Even though the zoo said that “baby porcupines are relatively mature and mobile immediately following birth,” this cutie will join his parents as an Animal Ambassador when he gets a little bit older.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute found that prehensile-tailed porcupines can live 12 to 17 years when cared for by humans in a zoo setting.