As a safari guide I have a bucket list of various sightings that I dream of seeing. The more time I spend in the bush, the more amazing things I have seen over the years, the more outrageous my bucket list seems to become.
A few nights ago, I managed to tick one major sighting off my bucket list that I have been hoping, dreaming and imagining for many years. We were lucky enough to spend the afternoon with the Mhangeni pride and the four coalition males. The lions were restful for most of the afternoon until it darkened into evening and began to cool. The pride soon became active and started to move with the four male lions in tow. Suddenly we saw the group clump together and it looked like they were surrounding something of interest.
My imagination started to race, trying to figure out what they had found… To my surprise it was a rather unfortunate porcupine surrounded by 13 lion and four male lions. This is not an ideal place to be, especially if you feature on the menu of a lion!
The Mhangeni pride and the four coalition males take an interest in an unfortunate porcupine.
The porcupine defends itself using its quills to ward off the curious lions
The porcupine backs into an approaching lion – the quills make a distracting noise
All was not lost however and 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. If the porcupine manages to get close enough to a predator, it does not shoot its quills as many people may think. Rather the quills have micro-barbs, which hook into the face or paws of a predator that may get too close. The quills simply pull out of the porcupines skin without causing damage to the prickly creature. The predator then has to deal with a painful quill. The downside of this is that there is a chance of the quill breaking off in the skin and this can cause a major infection. The porcupine simply re-grows any lost quills – the quills are a type of fused hair.
If the porcupine manages to get close enough to a predator, it does not shoot its quills as many people may think. Rather the quills have micro-barbs, which hook into the face or paws of a predator that may get too close.
Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.