6 March 2024

 A porcupine family at the UK’s largest zoo has grown from three to four, with a spiky new baby joining the prickle – with the little one starting to venture outside just in time for Mother’s Day.  

Mum Kimya, gave birth to the baby, known as a porcupette, at 3.34AM on February 13 at Whipsnade Zoo.

Zookeepers won’t know whether the porcupette is male and female until the tiny tots first health check with the veterinary team, so in the meantime keepers have named the three-week-old Dakari, which is a Zimbabwean name meaning rejoice.  

Porcupines are pregnant for 94 days, and this is Kimya’s second baby to be born in six months, with her last infant Oti, arriving in August 2023.

Keeper Felicity Ball said: “Kimya should be awarded ‘Mother of the Year’, not only has she been caring for her six-month-old Oti, but she also now has a tiny new baby to care for as well. Thankfully Dad, Winga, has been helping with the young,”.  

Baby porcupine sniffing the ground standing on log
© Whipsnade Zoo
Baby and Mum porcupine looking for food in indoor den
Baby porcupine born at Whipsnade Zoo

In the wild Cape porcupines (Hysteix africaeauastralis) often live solitarily, before coming together to breed and rear their young, remaining monogamous for life.  

While porcupettes do have quills when they’re born, luckily for Kimya they’re soft at birth, but become hard and prickly a couple of hours after the baby is born.  

Felicity added: “It was an incredible surprise for the team to see Dakari curled up next to Mum, Dad and their older sibling Oti the next day.”

“While Oti is quite shy, Dakari is very confident, pottering around the family's cosy indoor den following Mum everywhere she goes. They’ve been trying out new things each day, like nibbling on a bit of sweetcorn, one of the family's favourite snacks. While visitors may see the group having their ‘breakfast’ in our afternoon, they’re most active at night.”  

Felicity explains Cape porcupines are nocturnal rodents, native to central and southern Africa. They are the largest of all the porcupine species and Africa’s second largest rodent.  

“The Cape porcupines usually venture out when the sun starts to set, but thankfully our night vision cameras help us to monitor the prickle – which is a group of porcupines – when we’re not on the ground,” she said.  

As expert foragers and diggers, Cape porcupines are considered ‘ecosystem engineers’, however increasingly they can face threats of habitat destruction and hunting. As well as working to protect threatened species around the world, scientists and conservationists from ZSL, the conservation charity behind Whipsnade Zoo, work with communities to protect and preserve healthy ecosystems around the world.  

Visit Dakari and Kimya and more than 11,000 other animals at Whipsnade Zoo this Mother’s Day.

If you treat your herd to a family membership, you’ll have already got your money’s worth around your second visit, and made tons of new memories too!

*Based on the average zoo admission prices for one or two adults with two children in relation to the family membership Direct Debit fee.