Morning workouts keep elderly porcupine looking sharp

June 15, 2022 - 9:50am
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Daily Adventures Keep Nolina Porcupine Looking Sharp

Spiky senior citizen Nolina, an African-crested porcupine, stays fit with power walks

Looking to get in shape for summer? Why not take some tips from Nolina, an elderly Oregon Zoo porcupine whose fitness routine is on point. This spiky senior citizen, who turns 18 next week, is known for her morning power walks, which keep her looking sharp in her golden years.  

In the wild, African crested porcupines seldom live past the age of 15, and when Nolina reached that age a few years ago, caregivers began to see signs that she was slowing down. To help keep her healthy and active, zoo veterinary staff recommended a brisk daily walk. 

“It’s great exercise for Nolina,” keeper Virginia Grimley said. “Plus, it gives her a chance to experience new things.”

Nolina’s walks have grown shorter in recent times due to some joint issues, but caregivers say she still gets around. On trips through the zoo’s indoor rainforest area, she passes piranhas, tortoises, a slender-snouted crocodile and other animals along the way. Sometimes, they venture out to visit the nearby flamingos. 

Care staff use target training and food rewards for motivation — apples and sweet potatoes are among Nolina’s favorite snacks. Once she gets moving though, all that is beside the point.  

African crested porcupines are the largest porcupine species in the world and among the largest rodents in the world. They can grow up to 2.5 feet in length and weigh more than 40 pounds. And their formidable black-and-white quills can be more than a foot long. 

Contrary to popular belief, porcupines do not “shoot” their quills, but they will raise and fan them out as a defense if they are frightened or excited, Grimley said. Wild porcupines have been known to fend off an entire pride of lions.