Prickly love affair

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WHITE SURPRISE: Penny, a rare albino porcupine, will hopefully be producing babies soon at the Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn, where she has found a mate.

Johannesburg - It wasn’t quite love at first sight for this prickly couple, but they soon hit it off and now there could be some kids on the way.

This is because two porcupines, one an extremely rare albino, have taken to each other since being introduced last week at the Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn.

Both have something in common. They were rescued after nearly being killed by farmers, according to the Ranch’s marketing manager, Tammy Moult.

The albino female, now called Penny, was rescued in June after being trapped. The young male, Prickles, was found next to the body of his mother, which had been shot in June 2010.

“Porcupines are unfortunately considered vermin by farmers as they can easily destroy crops in search for food,” said Moult.

The two were first put in adjacent enclosures to get them used to each other and when they were finally introduced on December 12, Prickles ran around marking his territory. They also had their quills up.

But since their less-than-perfect first meeting, they have become smitten with each other.

“Their initial ‘fight or flight’ reaction quickly faded and resulted in love at second sight,” said Moult.

As both porcupines have reached sexual maturity, the ranch could expect baby porcupines soon.

The Cango Wildlife Ranch had received an early “white Christmas” with the rare albino, joked Moult.

“Being an albino porcupine, she has white quills, pink skin and red eyes, all due to a recessive gene caused by lack of pigmentation called melanin,” said Moult. They are an easy target for farmers or predators because they stand out in their surroundings.

The porcupine had a severe facial injury, with some skull exposed.

After months of treatment and care, Penny now just has a faint scar where the cut once was.

Their offspring will have a one-in-four chance of also being albino, but only if Prickles also carries the recessive gene. - The Star

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