Thursday, November 20, 2008
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.
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