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Prehensile-tailed porcupine

Scientific name: Coendou prehensilis
Family: Erethizontidae
Order: Rodentia
Class: Mammalia
Range: Northern South America
Habitat: Tropical Forest and Rainforest, Woodland
Lifespan: Up to 17 years in captivity; unknown in the wild

What do they look like?
Prehensile-tailed porcupines are covered in quills, ranging in color from black and white to yellow. Their long tails are prehensile (capable of grabbing or grasping) which means they can hold onto branches and act as a fifth limb as they balance in the treetops. Their tails are also quilled, but have bare tips for improving grip. Their prominent noses, hands, and feet are pinkish-grey in color. Their hands and feet all have four digits with long curved nails for climbing. They have an excellent sense of smell, but poor vision. Long whiskers on their face and legs help them navigate in the dark.

How do they behave?
Prehensile-tailed porcupines are arboreal (tree dwelling) and spend much of their time in the canopy and understory of the rainforest. They are nocturnal (most active at night), spending their days asleep in tree hollows or on branches high above the rainforest floor. During the night, these porcupines will forage among the treetops. They rarely drink water, obtaining all the moisture they need from their diet. When confronted by a predator, they may stomp their feet and shake their quills, making a rattling noise. If cornered, these porcupines will often raise their quills and walk backwards into the predator. Like all porcupines, their barbed quills are not thrown or shot at predators, but release easily when the quills make contact with the predator’s skin or fur.

What do they eat?
In the wild, they eat fruit, flowers, leaves, shoots and the inner bark of trees. At Happy Hollow they eat leaf-eater pellets, rodent blocks, fruit, vegetables and nuts.

How are they born?
Female prehensile-tailed porcupines give birth to a single baby after a 203-day gestation period. Babies are born year-round and have reddish-orange hair and soft quills, which harden in about a week. They are born precocious (born with their eyes open and able to move or climb with little help from their parents). They are weaned around 10 weeks, and are sexually mature in 18 months. These porcupines are solitary (live alone) for most of their lives.

Prehensile-tailed porcupines are common throughout their range and their conservation status is listed as Least Concern by the International union for Conservation of Nature . Two of the biggest threats to these animals are hunting and habitat loss. Prehensile-tailed porcupines live in the rainforests of Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Guiana. Often rainforest land in these areas is harvested for agricultural purposes. One organization working towards protection of rainforest land is the Rainforest Alliance. This group focuses on balancing the needs of local communities with rainforest habitat preservation. If you would like to help protect rainforest habitats you can start by recycling your paper products. If you would like to take your conservation action a step further, you can commit to purchasing coffee that is shade-grown and produce that is grown locally. These items do not require the destruction of rainforest crops to grow. If you are curious whether your coffee, chocolate or fruit is rainforest-friendly, look for the rainforest alliance seal of certification. To learn more visit