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How To Pet A Porcupine

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Volunteering

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hugh

The wonderful benefit about having various program animals around the Aquarium is how much you can learn from them. For instance, before I met one of our new program animals my perception of all porcupines was that of a slow awkward ground dwelling creature that was bristling with sharp needles pointed in all directions that was just waiting to impale your body. Needless to say that I was also sure that porcupines did not possess Positive Thigmotaxis like sea lions and did not like to be touched.

Then I met Tito the porcupine.

Tito is the pride and joy of his caretaker and trainer Melissa. Being a smart little porcupine, Tito’s progressing quickly with his training.

Tito cleared up my misconceptions of an animal species that I once thought I knew all about. Turns out that this particular species of porcupines (Coenou prehensilis AKA prehensile-tail porcupine) can climb like a squirrel, hang like a possum and pounce like a cat. Full of energy and curiosity, this critter also had another attribute that I was totally unprepared for. He’s one of the cutest animals I’ve ever encountered. Who would have thought that a porcupine could be cute? When Melissa first showed me Tito he was climbing all over his exhibit, scooting across ropes, bouncing around on two and four feet and checking out the people in front of his exhibit. It was quite entertaining to watch and nothing like the reclusive, slow moving critter that I thought I’d find on the floor of the exhibit.

Probably the most amazing thing that I learned from Tito is that you can actually get “Thiggy” with a porcupine. His nose is soft to the touch (it’s about the only area that doesn’t have quills), and he actually likes to be petted on his back. Yes, petted on his back! The trick to not getting a bunch of quills stuck to your hand is to only pet him from front to back.

So because of Tito, I feel much more educated about porcupines.

Check him out on your next visit to the Aquarium.

How To Pet A Porcupine
Tito's caretaker and trainer at the Aquarium Melissa first introduced me to the acrobatic porcupine.  | Hugh Ryono
How To Pet A Porcupine
Pam demonstrates the proper way to pet a porcupine. Front to back---always front to back.  | Hugh Ryono
How To Pet A Porcupine
Tito definitely has personality. Here the young porcupine looks like he's trying out to be a stand-up comic at the Laugh Factory. "What did the porcupine say to the cactus? Is that you Mom?"  | Hugh Ryono

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Isabel Moon

Friday, November 21, 2008 05:19 PM

First of all, quick!  someone get Tito a mic, a stool and an unruly crowd.  Comedy Central has its new mascot!  (But no fair planting hyenas in the audience.)

As someone who’s recently discovered the joys of keeping a pet barn spider (in my home, in a terrarium) and reaffirmed my knowledge of how amazing and amusing critters can be, it saddens me that more people can’t/don’t take a break from the mundane to have and share in these kinds of experiences.  In addition to blogs, this is the stuff of great and heartwarming books.  If you/they haven’t already, the aquarium should consider publishing an edition of its “animal tales.”  Not everyone who reads is online, and I prefer a book that I can hold in my hand, keep and cherish to a blog any day.

FANTASTIC story!  Please, keep ‘em coming.  But even better, put out a book!

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Ava

Monday, November 24, 2008 07:09 AM

Wow, I would have never thought you could actually pet a porcupine! What did Melissa do to train him exactly?

Great post! I learned a lot.

Ava

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Hugh

Sunday, November 30, 2008 03:49 PM

Hi Ava,

Glad you enjoy reading about Tito. Melissa used positive reinforcment to train Tito. The same principles that we use to train seals and sea lions.

Hugh

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Hugh

Sunday, November 30, 2008 03:56 PM

Hi Isabel,

Maybe one day the Aquarium will publish some of the stories in a book. It would take a lot of editing though but we have an awesome communications and website staff here at the Aquarium of the Pacific that could handle it easily if need be.

Thanks for your comment.

Hugh

All blogs and comments represent the views of the individual authors and not necessarily those of the Aquarium.

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