An endemic species of the rodent family, the Palawan porcupine (Hystrix pumila) is the only porcupine found in the Philippines. Read on to learn more about this unique wildlife species.
My first encounter with the Palawan porcupine (earlier referred to as Thecurus pumilus, later Hystrix pumila) was in captivity in one of the pens of Crocodile Farm in Barangay Irawan, Puerto Princesa. It hides itself inside a makeshift shed and brandishes its long spines upon approach with a sound of rustling bristles that made me stop on my track. I thought it was a docile animal.
The Palawan porcupine, locally known as “durian” presumably derived from a tasty, spiny fruit of a tree, can attain a total length of almost 2 feet. It has very small eyes that appear to be drowsy and blind. It has a short tail of about 2 inches. Its quills are well developed posteriorly but will become shorter and smaller towards the tip. The bristles have characteristic specks of white, breaking the generally dark brown-black coloration.
Biology and Habitat
The Palawan porcupine is active at night (nocturnal) and inhabits lowland forests and rock crevices in karst forests. They are frequently sighted along the edges of forests. They are not easily intimidated as they would orient their spines towards the intruder and attack rearward when disturbed. They are vegetarian as they feed on roots and juicy plants as well as fruits of a tree locall known as talisay or Indian almond (Terminalia catappa)(Esselstyn et al., 2004). Because of this feeding behavior, they disperse seeds upon defecation.
After attracting a mate, female H. pumila raise their rear and tail high while her chest is on the ground. The male then proceeds to mount the female by clasping her sides with its front paws and balancing on its hind feet (University of Michigan, 2009). They burrow to make nests.
The Palawan porcupines are found in mainland Palawan and the northern islands of Busuanga, Calauit and Coron. In Palawan mainland, they are found in Iwahig and Subterranean River in Puerto Princesa, Aborlan and Tabon Cave in Quezon, and in the forested areas of El Nido. They are also known to occur in the island of Dumaran, east of northern mainland Palawan.
Endemic in Palawan, the porcupines are nocturnal, they are rarely encountered unless searched purposely. Increased human activity in their habitat can threaten their population since they are valued for their meat and are regarded as pests because they gnaw on coconut trees and leaves.
Esselstyn, J. A., Widmann, P. and L. R. Heaney, 2004. The mammals of Palawan Island, Philippines. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117(3):271-302.
Rabor, D. S., 1986. Guide to Philippine Flora and Fauna. Natural Resources Management Center, Ministry of Natural Resources and University of the Philippines. 213 pp.
University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved on September 23, 2009 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hystrix_pumila.html.
Wikipedia, 2009. Philippine porcupine. Retrieved on September 23, 2009 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_Porcupine.