Porcupine is one of the most interesting night animals to come across while out in the bush. Although, we don’t get to see them for very long as their first instinct is to dart out of sight and few African safari goers get to see them at all. Many people are aware that the Porcupine is a mammal, but little know that is part of the rodent family, such as beavers, rats and mice.
The Porcupine is the largest rodent in Southern Africa and is the prickliest of all the rodents. Its scientific name refers to “Quill pig.” There are more than 24 different species of Porcupines across the world, and they all have needle-like quills. The purpose of these quills is to give their enemy a fair warning that they are no easy meal.
There is an African Myth that says that the Porcupine can shoot its quills at its enemy. This is not true, but the quills do easily detach when touched. The quills are modified hair and can be regrown once they are lost. The quill itself has a very sharp tip with overlapping scales which makes it very difficult to remove when they are stuck in an animal’s skin. A single porcupine can have up to 30,000 quills! Some quills are as long as 50 cm.
They can weigh between 18 and 30 kg and reach a length of 90 cm. Now that is a very big rodent! Porcupines are active at night spend this time foraging for food. They are mostly vegetarian, using their strong sharp claws to get to roots. Their diet also exists of bulbs, fallen fruit such as the Marula, and will sometime gnaw on the bark of the Tamboti Tree. The debarking of the trees plays an important role in the ecosystem, preventing the development of a denser environment.
They use their strong claws to dig a burrow which they will utilize to sleep in during the day. The digging of the burrow is vitally important, not only does it provide shelter for the animal to sleep in, but the digging of the burrow forms the shelter for other animals like the Warthog. Because the warthog has no claws it is not able to dig the burrow, so they rely on the Porcupine to dig the burrow for them. With warthog being a diurnal animal and the Porcupine being a nocturnal animal, these animals often share the “apartment”, and as the sun rises or sets the other housemate moves out and starts their day.
At River Lodge, there is a resident Porcupine that often comes around to the “BOMA” area during dinner time. One evening when my guests and I were having dinner we heard a rustle in the bushes…What might that be?
I got up to investigate and came across this quilled fella! We could see how long some of the quills were and how relaxed it was with our presence. After getting some photos of him he decided that his visit has come to an end and that it was time to go and look for some food somewhere else.
Story by: River Lodge Ranger – Lisa-Mari Lutze
330g castor sugar
40g gelatin leaves
680g castor sugar
450g glucose syrup
1 Tbls vanilla paste
For the caramel
In heavy base saucepan melt the sugar on low heat
Add butter & cream, leave on the stove until all the sugar dissolves
For the marshmallow
Bloom the gelatin leaves in ice cold water
Melt the gelatin over a double bath
Pour the gelatin in an electric mixer
Combine sugar, glucose, honey, water & vanilla paste in a saucepan and cook to 122 degrees Celsius
Take off the heat and cool to 100 degrees Celsius
Add the sugar mix to the gelatin and mix a high speed for 7 minutes
Fold in 150g of caramel sauce
Spread into an oven tray lined with silicon paper and well oiled
Allow to set over night
Dust the marshmallow with a mixture of equal quantities of icing sugar and corn flour
The second treat is shortbread – perfect with your morning coffee or tea.
Why not give this a try.
450g soft salted butter
225g castor sugar
Preheat the oven @ 170 degrees Celsius
Mix the dry ingredients together
Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar for a minute
Add your dry ingredients and mix form a dough
Roll the dough in between two baking sheets and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes
Cut in small squares
Place I a baking tray
Sprinkle the biscuits with sugar
Bake @ 170 degrees Celsius for 12 min
Recipe by Karula Executive Chef Makhi
Life at the lodge is always a beehive of activity and out in the Mara, Mother Nature’s work is always ongoing.
Every now and again though, human intervention helps her along the way.
Several fires have been lit across the grasslands, both here in the Mara and further out in neighboring Serengeti.
Though jarring to see, this process will ensure the growth of fresh greenery in about two weeks – just in time for the hungry hordes of wildebeest we’re expecting.
The shorter grass also offers an advantage to the smaller members of the Mara family, like the yellow-throated sandgrouse, which is now able to move along with fewer hindrances.
It’s a double-edged sword though – the shorter foliage also makes prey far easier to spot for adept hunters like this young, African wildcat. Though it looks remarkably like a regular house cat, some of its most distinguishing features include two dark rings encircling its front legs and striped hind legs.
As the weeks go by, the Park continues to open up more as previously flooded areas start to dry out. But we still have the occasional shower and this helps maintain a flourishing bounty of lilies in the pools of water along the various drainage lines.
Probably the only animal I feel works harder at being vigilant than the impala, is the topi – they perpetually scan the horizon for predators with an intensity like no other.
But the impala does come in at a pretty close second. These impala were so focused on a threat approaching from one direction that they nearly missed another coming from the other side – but luckily for them, one spotted the approaching lion in time.
When you’re an apex predator, you don’t really work as hard as everyone else, but just because you’re the new hot shot in town and you’ve got gorgeous different-colored eyes, doesn’t mean the takeover will be easy.
This, as Kibogoyo (from the Bila Shaka coalition) soon discovered when he tried to impress the ladies of the Mugoro Pride.
We continue to see more and more lion, with the pride and territory dynamics changing in exciting ways. The Rekero Breakaway pride made an appearance after a two-year hiatus. A mother flanked by her three-year-old offspring, potentially progeny of the Musketeer Coalition.
The incredible male, thought to be the son of the most famous of the Musketeers, Scar, had a serious injury to his hind leg, quite possibly the result of a buffalo encounter.
Rumors abound that Scar himself could be in the Triangle – it’s quite thrilling to know that we could spot him on one of our drives. But having his son around is certainly nothing to complain about.
Despite all the activity, there are still beacons of rest and self-care in the Mara. The hippos who love to huddle as they snooze.
And the Mara crocodile, who refuse to budge for anything less than a meal of a hapless zebra or wildebeest attempting to cross the river.
This Week One Year Ago:
This time last year, Short Tail was one of the dominant males in the area around Angama. He hasn’t been seen in several weeks and with the arrival of new coalitions in the Triangle, it is likely that his reign is over.
Over 1.5 billion children have been impacted by school closures worldwide due to the current crisis. Among those who have faced disruption to their education through movement restrictions are my siblings.
That had been the case until recently, when I received an email from David Risher, the founder and CEO of Worldreader, a non-profit organisation which promotes digital literacy with operations in Kenya, Ghana, Spain, the UK and India.
He informed me of Keep Children Reading, a rapid-response campaign providing free digital books. Seeing that the health crisis has morphed into a learning crisis, Worldreader introduced the BookSmart remote learning app.
It carries digital books on a variety of subjects and themes, all available free of charge. It is designed for use on basic cellphones with a 2G internet connection. Parents are capitalizing on this to read aloud to their children.
Caregivers and teachers in India, the Middle East and Latin America are already harnessing this technology to bridge the learning gap. I have previously partnered with the Angama Foundation in programs to shore up a reading culture in the Mara. As such, I took up the challenge as soon as I became aware of this opportunity.
My own library is active and is stocked frequently with new downloads. So I started to share the app with my friends and neighbors. This has created a network of virtual libraries. As it is, I have sent it to 20 families in my community. I aim to reach more than 100 more.
Whether it’s holiday time or you are giving your kids a wonderful safari treat, you always want to keep them engaged.
Sometimes, leveraging distance learning means ensuring high return rates once schools reopen. Even more so for vulnerable children, especially girls. For instance, there was a notable spike in teenage pregnancies in Liberia following a compulsory eight-month holiday in the wake of the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
That said, staying safe and healthy with our families is our first priority. Stay at home now to travel tomorrow.
Note from the Editor:
Joel is a Journalist, Economist and Author based in the Mara. He began writing the moment he began to read. He is passionate about creating reading spaces and loves to dance with words.