Tierpark Animal News

A prickly new arrival at Tierpark Berlin

New World porcupine family welcomes a new member

On 20 April, a small, soft, dark-brown ball of fur came into the world at Tierpark Berlin. But mother and child could only remain in close contact for a little while, as just one hour after birth some of the baby porcupines’ soft fur already hardens into prickly spikes. Fortunately for New World porcupines, they’re not really the cuddly type anyway, and the young are active and largely independent soon after being born. The same is certainly true for this little one, as at only two days old it had already explored its new home on its own four feet. The new arrival is the second New World porcupine to be born at the Tierpark – and almost exactly one year after the couple’s first child, Pixie. It is not yet known if Pixie has a little brother or a little sister.

“New World porcupines may look cute with their short legs and plump, round bodies, but they are actually equipped with highly effective defensive weapons,” explains Tierpark curator Dr Florian Sicks. “They have about 30,000 spines, each measuring up to 75 mm in length, with finely barbed tips. The contrasting white of the spines against the brown fur sends a warning signal to pumas, lynxes and eagles that they had better stay away.”

In their natural habitat in Canada, the United States and northern Mexico, the porcupines spend much of the day sleeping in trees or holes in the ground. And things are no different here at the Tierpark: the two or three prickly fur balls that are usually perched high up on a branch just inside the Bärenschaufenster entrance have already become a highlight for visitors. Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem is delighted at how quickly the porcupines have settled in: “The New World porcupines only moved into the Tierpark in 2016, but already the fledgling North America section is unthinkable without their presence,” he says. “The fact that Oskar and Anni produced young so quickly is not only wonderful for the visitors, it also shows us that they feel happy and comfortable here. They are already such a popular part of any visit to the Tierpark that they have even been immortalised in our new Tierpark puzzle book.”

Since early April, the New World porcupine family have been sharing their home with another 13 black-tailed prairie dogs, who were brought in to boost numbers in the existing group.