Philippine porcupine (Hystrix pumila)
|Also known as:||Indonesian porcupine, Palawan porcupine|
|Size||Total length: 49 - 60 cm (2)|
Tail length: 4 - 11 cm (2)
|Weight||3.8 - 5.4 kg (3)|
The Philippine porcupine is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).
With a dense covering of spines over the body, the Philippine porcupine (Hystrix pumila) is a highly distinctive rodent. Each spine on the back is flattened, with a rigid tip and a deep groove running along the length. The spines on the underparts are more flexible (3).
The Philippine porcupine is dark brown to black on the upperparts, paler on the sides, and whitish on the underparts (3). The short tail bears specialised spines, or ‘quills’, which are hollow near the tip. When several quills are vibrated together they produce a hiss-like rattle (3).
The Philippine porcupine has very small eyes and ears (3). Each forefoot has four well-developed digits, each bearing a thick claw, while the hindfeet have five digits. All the feet are covered with coarse bristle-like hairs (3).
The Philippine porcupine occurs only in the Philippines, where it occurs on Palawan and Busuanga Island (1) (4).
Although primarily an inhabitant of lowland primary and secondary forest, the Philippine porcupine may sometimes venture into grassland, scrubland and cultivated areas (1). It has also been reported to occupy dens in old mines (2).
Active at night, the Philippine porcupine searches for plant material on which to feed (2), when it may be heard making pig-like grunting noises and rattling its quills (3) (5). Details of this species’ diet are not known, but other porcupines in the genus Hystrix have a varied diet, comprising bark, roots, tubers, rhizomes, bulbs, fallen fruits, and cultivated crops. They may also sometimes also feed on insects and small vertebrates, and even carrion (3). Bones have also been found in and around the burrows of these porcupines, which are thought to have been carried there for gnawing, to sharpen teeth and obtain calcium (3).
During the day, the Philippine porcupine may shelter in a burrow that it has dug itself, or in an old abandoned mine (2). Hystrix porcupines typically share the den with a small family group, although the female may establish a separate den in which to bear young. Hystrix porcupines typically give birth to one or two young, after a gestation period of around 100 days (3). The Philippine porcupine has been recorded living to nine years and six months in captivity (3).
While the spines of the Philippine porcupine are thought to play a role in regulating body temperature (5), their alternative purpose of defence is far more impressive to observe. When threatened, the Philippine porcupine may raise its quills to double its apparent size. If threatened further, the porcupine may stamp its feet, rattle its tail, and eventually charge backwards, attempting to drive its thicker, shorter, rear quills into the enemy (3) (5) (6).
The Philippine porcupine is threatened by the loss of its forest habitat (1). Once completely forested, the island of Palawan now clings to just 50 percent of its natural forest. Logging and slash-and-burn agriculture are the primary drivers of this habitat destruction (7).
Hunting for food by local people is an additional threat to the Philippine porcupine. This peculiar species may also be captured and traded within the Philippines as a pet (1) (2).
While past activities have had a devastating impact on the native fauna and flora of Palawan, recent reports say that the situation on the island has now stabilised. Large-scale logging has been halted, and apparently a balance has been reached between development and conservation. Monitoring of the island’s habitats and wildlife will determine whether this is true (7).
Palawan has a number of protected areas in which the Philippine porcupine occurs, including Culasian Managed Resources Protected Area and Omoi Cockatoo Reserve (1), which will help protect the habitat of this unique mammal.
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- Carrion: the flesh of a dead animal.
- Genus: a category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ scientific species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Gestation: the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Primary: primary forest is forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
- Rhizomes: thickened, branching, creeping storage stems. Although most rhizomes grow laterally just along or slightly below the soil's surface, some grow several inches deep. Roots grow from the underside of the rhizome, and during the growing season new growth sprouts from buds along the top. A familiar rhizome is the ginger used in cooking.
- Secondary forest: forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
- Slash-and-burn: the cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create space for agriculture or livestock.
- Tubers: thickened stems or roots of a plant that act as underground storage organs. Roots and shoots grow from growth buds, called ‘eyes’, on the surface of the tuber.
- Vertebrates: animals with a backbone, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
- Heaney, L.R., Balete, D.S., Dolar, M.L., Alcala, A.C., Dans, A.T.L., Gonzales, P.C., Ingle, N.R., Lepiten, M.V., Oliver, W.L.R., Ong, P.S., Rickart, E.A., Tabaranza Jr, B.R. and Utzurrum, R.C.B. (1998) A synopsis of the mammalian fauna of the Philippine Islands. Fieldiana Zoology, 88: 1-61.
- Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
- Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D. (2005)Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference: Third Edition, Volume 3. The John Hopkins University Press, Maryland.
- Ewer, R.F. (1968) Ethology of Mammals. Plenum Press, New York.
- Beddard, F.E. (1902) Mammalia. Macmillan and Co., London.
- Wikramanayake, E., Dinerstein, E. and Loucks, C. (2001) Terrestrial Ecoregions of theIndo-Pacific: A Conservation Assessment. Island Press, Washington, D.C.