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Elderly porcupine is still looking sharp

June 23, 2023, 10:17 a.m.
Topic: Animal well-being
The African Crested Porcupine on exhibit at the Oregon Zoo.

Spiky senior citizen Nolina, an African crested porcupine, turns 19 today

Summer’s here, and people looking to get in shape for the season could take some tips from Nolina, an elderly Oregon Zoo porcupine whose fitness routine is on point. This spiky senior citizen, who turns 19 today, is known for her morning walks, which have kept her looking sharp in her golden years.

In the wild, African crested porcupines seldom live past the age of 15, and when Nolina reached that age a few years ago, caregivers began to see signs she was slowing down. To help keep her healthy and active, zoo veterinary staff recommended a brisk daily walk.

“She’s moving a little slower these days, and her walks are shorter now, but she still gets around,” keeper Kristina McMahon said. “Overall, she’s doing very well — especially for her age.”

Care staff use target training and food rewards for motivation — her favorite snack is corn on the cob, and she also likes apples and sweet potatoes. Once she gets moving though, all that is beside the point.

On trips through the zoo’s indoor rainforest area, Nolina passes piranhas, tortoises, a slender-snouted crocodile and other animals along the way. Sometimes, they venture out to visit the nearby flamingos.

African crested porcupines are the largest porcupine species in the world and among the largest rodents in the world. They can grow up to 2.5 feet in length and weigh more than 40 pounds. And their formidable black-and-white quills can be more than a foot long.

Contrary to popular belief, porcupines do not “shoot” their quills, but they will raise and fan them out as a defense if they are frightened or excited, McMahon said. Wild porcupines have been known to fend off an entire pride of lions.