African crested porcupine

At the Detroit Zoo
A pair of African crested porcupines, born in 2007, joined the Detroit Zoo in 2011 – marking the first time the species has called the Zoo home since 1997. Female Pokey is the dominant of the two, while male Crockett is smaller and submissive. Many guests ask if they can shoot their quills. They cannot; their quills can only penetrate through contact. Pokey and Crockett can be found with the pilicans in the African Grasslands in the spring through fall, and can be found indoors north of the bear dens in the cold winter months.

The porcupine is covered with rigid quills and flexible spines, both banded in black and white, with a crest of coarse hairs from the top of the head to the shoulders. Porcupines are born with soft quills, which harden within hours of birth.


Scientific name: Hystrix africaeaustralis
Continent: Southern Africa
Habitat: Tropical forests, woodlands, mountain steppes, sand hills and barren deserts
Size: 30-40 inches
Weight: 35-50 pounds
Diet: The African crested porcupine has an herbivorous diet consisting of bark, roots, tubers, rhizomes, bulbs, fallen fruit and cultivated crops.
Reproduction: Gestation of 112 days; one to three offspring
Lifespan: 12-15 years in the wild
Conservation Status: Least Concern



Contrary to popular belief, the porcupine does not shoot its quills. To ward off predators, it raises and rattles its quills, stamps its hind feet and makes a grunting sound. If the predator continues pursuit, the porcupine turns its back and defends itself by charging backward into its enemy.

The African crested porcupine is the largest rodent in southern Africa.


The porcupine does not climb or jump very well, but it is an excellent swimmer.


The African crested porcupine may gnaw on the bones when feeding on carrion, which not only allows it to sharpen its incisors, but also provides a source of essential calcium.