The Cape porcupine is a largely nocturnal, minor species of mammal that occurs across Southern Africa. Night game drives in any part of southern Africa could offer the opportunity to spot porcupines.

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The porcupine species found within the Kruger National Park and Southern Africa is the Cape Porcupine, the largest porcupine species on earth. They are a species of rodent covered by black and white quils used for protection.

They occur widely throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Porcupines inhabit all countries in Southern Africa. The only area where they don't occur is the Namib Desert.

Cape porcupine
Scientific Name
Hystrix africaeaustralis
10 to 24 kg
63 to 81 cm
Mating Season
Throughout the year


They are in no way endangered or experiencing any decline in numbers. Cape Porcupine populations have shown that they are good at adapting to environmental changes, causing headaches for many farmers growing crops. Their populations in well-managed and truly wild protected areas and game farms are also stable overall. They offer reassurance to many conservationists about their presence in future ecosystems and the species' genetic diversity.


They occur in any hospitable environment, which includes all habitats. The eastern tropical and sub-tropical part of Southern Africa, along with the more arid western coast, which contains the Namib Desert, the Karoo, and fynbos-covered areas as you approach the south coast, all suit porcupines. They typically find refuge in discarded Aardvark burrows, modifying them slightly before use or digging their burrows. They forage on various plants, and their survival in drier and even desert areas results from their ability to feed on roots.

Social Organization

Mate pairs stay together for most of their lives. These pairs live together in a burrow when a shelter is needed and sometimes form part of a group of pairs with which they forage, raise young and defend against predators. A pair has the same home range in which all essential life activities occur and their small territory within the home range. They scent mark, guard, and defend this territory. Home ranges may overlap with neighboring porcupines, but territories are exclusive, and some agitation will meet trespassing here.

Finest Safari Areas in Africa for Encountering Porcupine

We recommend the following National Parks and Private Reserves for the best chances of spotting the porcupine on safari game drives and bush walks.

Social Behavior

Obtaining food is the main objective for any wild animal, and porcupines are no different. They do this during the night with only their life partner, even if they do form part of a group. They enjoy bulbs, roots, and tree bark, and because of this, they are despised by potato or pumpkin farmers whose crops can be ripped apart by porcupines. Young porcupines stay with and forage with their parents, even into adolescence and sometimes beyond that, until they can find their own mate. Chewed bones sometimes decorate their shelters. It is because porcupines like to gnaw on the bones of old carcasses.


Porcupines mate any time during the year when the female goes into heat for nine days. After they successfully copulate, a plug forms within the female to protect the newly fertilized egg in her uterus. Ninety-four days later, a litter of up to 3 little porcupines is born. They remain concealed in the burrow where they were born for nine weeks before going out and only eat solid food after four weeks, with their caring mother providing milk before that.

Anti-Predator Behavior

Only a few predators are interested in porcupine meat, mainly due to its strong protection, but those who do may experience quite a performance from the porcupine's part. They erect their spikes like other animals do with their hair, making them seem bigger and grunting noises while swaying back and forth to produce rattling sounds with their quills. If attacked, the porcupine stabs at any soft tissue. They do this by, quite literally, running into their attackers either sideways or backward.

The Big 5

White Rhino
Black Rhino