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Prickly Porcupine Defends Itself Against Lion Pride

Nov 04, 2014 04:40 PM EST
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In an amazing act of bravery and determination, new footage shows a prickly porcupine in Africa defending itself against a pride of 17 hungry lions.

The African savannah can be a dangerous place for those who aren't at the top of the food chain, and for one porcupine in particular, his survival skills were put to the test. On the Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa recently, the rodent found itself wandering into the Mhangeni lion pride on the prowl, and skillfully used its characteristic quills on its back to avoid becoming their next meal.

"All was not lost," wildlife photographer Lucien Beaumont, who caught the whole ordeal on camera, wrote on the reserve's website. "The porcupine began to shake its tail (known as a rattle) - the sound of the quills makes a distracting noise. The porcupine began to run backwards into any lion that would come too close for comfort, a common defense mechanism for a threatened porcupine."


[Credit: Londolozi Game Reserve]

The 13 lionesses and four male lions were not easily deterred, and continued to take stabs at the clever animal. But the lions were no match for this porcupine's strong defense. There are about two dozen porcupine species, ranging from Africa, Europe, and Asia, to North and South America, and all of them boast a coat of needle-like quills to give predators a sharp reminder that this animal is no easy meal, National Geographic says.

Most people think that porcupines shoot out their quills when they feel threatened, but in actuality, the game reserve notes, the quills have micro-barbs that hook into the face or paws of a predator that may get too close. Some quills, like those of Africa's crested porcupine, are nearly a foot long. So when the plucky porcupine would back up into any threatening lion, its quills would simply - and harmlessly - pull out of its skin and leave the lions to deal with a painful barb.

Needless to say, "the cubs soon lost their bravery and backed off, leaving the porcupine to disappear into the night and live to see another day," Beaumont wrote.

And porcupines can simply regrow new quills to replace the ones they lose.

Perhaps these lions lucked out by walking away, as a recent study has found that porcupines will not just use their barbed backs as a defensive shield, but they will also dole out lethal blows that can kill even the most ferocious of adversaries - including lions.

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