The Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. has a new resident in its Small Mammal House: A newborn porcupine that belongs to a species featuring an exceptional tail.
On the night of November 5, Beatrix, a two-year-old prehensile-tailed porcupine, gave birth to a porcupette, having her first offspring. She had been observed by keepers over the past few weeks prior to the birth, while she had been gaining weight steadily. The porcupette’s father is Quillbur, an adult male prehensile-tailed porcupine.
The new member of the family is reportedly healthy and strong, weighing less than one pound (400 grams) at the time of the birth. It is currently spending all of its time with Beatrix and is able to slowly navigate tree branches, using its tail as a fifth limb to hold them, according to a statement published on November 8 by the Zoo.
😍 Look at this not-quite-yet prickly prehensile-tailed porcupette! The baby was born overnight between Nov. 5 and 6. It is healthy, strong and doing well! #Porcupette #WeSaveSpecieshttps://t.co/cJlqECFH8B pic.twitter.com/FYselArnaD
— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) November 8, 2019
It is not certain yet whether the porcupette is male or female. It will be determined by scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation Genomics via DNA analysis from one of its quills.
“Prehensile-tailed porcupines have internal sex organs, which can make it difficult to determine if a porcupette is a male or female for six months or more,” the Zoo’s statement explained.
The species is native to South America. These porcupines are known for short, rigid quills with soft hair in between and being nocturnal and very good at climbing. They typically eat leaves, flowers, shoots and other vegetation.
Visitors to the National Zoo will be able to view the porcupette and its family in the Small Mammal House.