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Rare porcupette born in UK takes a seat in keeper’s hand

A rare species of porcupine that is notoriously hard to breed has given birth to a baby at a wildlife centre for only the second time since they began trying to breed them 10 years ago.

The prehensile-tailed porcupine arrived on Christmas Day at the Hemsley Conservation Centre, Sevenoaks, Kent.

The zoo is one of only two in the UK that has a porcupine habitat and is the only park in the country to hold a breeding group of mixed sexes.

The porcupine is the prickliest of rodents and numbers are declining in the wild.

The porcupette – as baby porcupines are known – arrived at 4.40 pm on Christmas Day as keepers were finishing for the day.

It is not yet known whether it is a male or female, and has not been given a name but it joined its mum, dad, and older sister – who was born at the park last year – for a family Christmas.

Very little is known about how the animals, native to central and south America, live in the wild.

They use their tail to spend the majority of time in the trees and can live into their 20s.

The prehensile porcupine has soft hair but on their back, they are covered with sharp, white quills and they can grasp things using its tail, which can add another foot and a half to its length.

The rodents live in trees in lowland rainforest or savannah landscapes or dry forests and feed mostly on fruit, seeds, and bark.

Although the species is not one of the most endangered animals, their wild habitats are under threat.

The babies look very different when they are born, to how they will appear when they grow up.

They are born with bright orange hair and by about three weeks old, they grow the quills that completely cover their little bodies.

Mature adults grow to around 4.5kg to 5kg in weight and have a prehensile tail and long-clawed feet.

Although they are officially classified as of “least concern”, their population is declining in the wild.

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