The distinct personalities & quills you’ll find at Nashville Zoo’s Cape Porcupine Exhibit

Nashville Zoo

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – They are from South Africa, hence the word “cape”. These are very cute animals, but you probably don’t want to pet them that much!

And they have been raising “pups” at the Nashville Zoo. “Earlier last year we had three pups: Tommy, Angelica, and Dill Prickles,” explained Nate Morris, Nashville Zoo, Contact Lead Keeper. “They are the second litter to Mkali and Jake. Jake was born here about four years ago at the Nashville Zoo, Mkali came in from the San Diego Zoo as part of the Species Survival Plan.”

“Angelica and Dill, we still have,” Morris said.  “They are being trained and raised for education purposes.  And today is the first day they will see the exhibits.  So that will be interesting.  These are hand-raised porcupines for education purposes.  Dad, Jake Quyllenhaal, he was not hand-raised. He was parent-raised.  And we were actually able to, with all that time and relationship building, train him to allow us to put a harness on.  And we actually walk him around the zoo.  Hopefully, with his youngsters, we will do more of that, bring them around. Currently, already they are in our pockets anywhere we go.  Which is pretty awesome.  We’re working on training them to do some natural behaviors and abilities in front of the public.   And we view them as animal ambassadors for their species and other species like them.  People will get to come out and build their relationship with them and see them close,  something that zookeepers like us take for granted.

And of course, when you think about porcupines, you think about their quills! They actually have several types, but it’s the smallest ones they call the “business” quills, that will make you remember that you had an encounter with a porcupine!

“This is their crest,” Morris pointed out. “What they get that from. And then it goes all the way to the back of their tail. They have all of these long flexible ones that just make them look bigger than they actually are.   Some of their predators are lions, hyenas, African wild dogs…big predators, big animals. So, they want to look bigger than they actually are. And they also want to sound bigger than they actually are. They do this death metal growl that is pretty intimidating. And then they also have rattle quills on the end of their tail.  As you can see, they are rattling it right now.  It sounds like a big maraca or really loud maracas.  And then, within these, all of these short ones underneath, are the ‘business ones’. So, once you get past those flexible long ones, that’s where the really stiff quills are.”

And they have distinctive personalities. “Dill is the one on the right here.  Closer to Dory.  She acts like the runt.  She was the smallest one born.  She is very emotional.  She wants to make sure she gets her share at the dinner table.  Angelica is a lot more calm.” 

And you can go witness their personalities (and their quills) in person at the “Cape Porcupine Exhibit” at the Nashville Zoo.

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