Crested Porcupine

Hystrix cristata

Crested porcupine are the largest porcupine species in the world. They are terrestrial so live on the ground, unlike the New-World porcupines from the Americas.

Porcupines prefer rocky hills and outcrops and areas with vegetation. The are found throughout the savanna, grasslands and forests of northern and central Africa.

Females have one litter per year of 1 to 4 offspring, called “porcupettes”. They are born in a grass-lined birth chamber within the burrow system. The porcupettes are born with their open eyes and fully developed teeth, although the quills on their backs are soft. Subsequently, they remain in the den for their first week until their quills begin to harden.

Crested porcupines are nocturnal and forage alone at night. As a result, they can travel up to 9 miles in their search for food. They eat tubers, bark, bulbs, fallen fruit and cultivated root crops, therefore they are often persecuted by local farmers.

Porcupine can’t shoot their quills. When frightened, crested porcupines raise the 30cm quills along their head and back so that their body appears larger to predators. If this doesn’t work, they stamps their feet, clicks their teeth and rattle the hollow-tipped tail quills. If this still doesn’t work, they charge backwards with the quills on their backside. Porcupines have been known to injure lions, leopards, hyenas and even humans.

Crested porcupines are classified by the IUCN Red List as Least Concern. Threats to porcupines include hunting for meat, persecuted as an agricultural pest and traditional medicine.

The porcupines at Fife Zoo live in a large mixed exhibit with out meerkats.

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Crested porcupines prefer rocky outcrops but can be found throughout the savanna, grasslands and forests.


Crested porcupines are herbivores and eat tubers, bulbs, fallen fruit and crops.


There are few human threats to porcupines. Their main threat is persecution as agricultural pests and predation from big cats such as lions.



They are widespread throughout their range, even though they’re a favoured food item for humans in many parts.