Porcupines have several different types of spine, with each serving a different purpose. (ABC News: Samuel Yang)
With bizarre humanoid ears, dangerous spikes, a rattle like a rattlesnake and enormous teeth with roots that extend 10 centimetres back into its skull, Perth Zoo’s new resident is without a doubt one of its strangest animals.
The porcupine, named Nzuri, has joined the zoo as part of a regional breeding program, and underwent a health check today after spending months in quarantine.
Perth Zoo senior veterinarian Simone Vitali was given the task of — very carefully — giving the prickly patient a comprehensive examination, including dental check, X-rays and blood tests.
“Just utterly fascinating,” she said.
“They’ve got bizarrely humanoid ears … the size of their teeth is just extraordinary. The roots of the insides go back a good 10 centimetres into the skull,” she said.
Giving a health check to a porcupine is a delicate task.
“We found ourselves getting snagged on spines and poked by spines,” Dr Vitali said.
“They have two or three different kinds of spines. They’ve got ones that look like more normal hairs, then they’ve got quills they use as defence.
“Right at the end of the tail, they’ve got these amazing specialised hollow spines … like the rattle of a rattlesnake to make noise to demonstrate aggression.”
Nzuri arrived in Perth a month ago from Monarto Zoo in South Australia.
He is going to be housed with Noko, a two-year-old female porcupine from the UK that arrived the zoo late last year, and the zoo has high hopes for a litter of little porcupines before too long.
“The two porcupines have got on better than we’ve ever hoped,” Dr Vitali said.
African porcupines are the largest rodent on the continent, weighing from 18 to 24 kilograms and potentially growing close to a metre in length.
Nzuri will go on display to the public tomorrow and can be found at the zoo’s African Savanna Trail.
Perth Zoo’s new porcupine under anaesthetic while it gets a medical check. (ABC News: Samuel Yang)