Watch Porcupine Mom and Dad Tag Team To Protect Babies From Leopard

Two parent porcupines have delighted the internet after footage was released of the prickly pair protecting their babies from a leopard.

The video, which was recorded at Kruger National Park, South Africa, by ranger Rodney Themba, has gone viral on social media, amassing hundreds of thousands of views across numerous platforms since being shared in January.

"It was my first time [seeing this] after 20 years in Kruger and I was surprised [and] shocked at the same time," Themba told Newsweek on Tuesday.

Porcupine parents protect their babies from leopard
Screenshots showing the porcupine parents shielding their babies from the predatory leopard. Rodney Themba/South African National Parks

In the footage, the four porcupines—mom, dad and their two baby porcupettes—can be seen walking across the street when a leopard jumps out of the bushes to attack them. The parents immediately throw up their quills and shield their babies from the apex predator.

Porcupines are the largest rodents in Africa and can weigh up to 66 pounds, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. The word porcupine means "quill pig" in Latin, although they are not actually a type of pig.

There are 24 different porcupine species found around the world, National Geographic estimates, including in the Unites States. Each species boasts a distinctive coat of needle-like quills, the length of which varies between species. The African crested porcupine—which is likely to be the species featured in the video—has quills that can grow up to a foot long.

The quills of a porcupine have sharp tips and are lined with barbs that make them difficult to remove once they have become stuck in another animal's skin. The resulting wounds can become infected, or may puncture an organ if ingested, which can be fatal to the receiving animal.

Porcupine in South Africa
Photo of a porcupine in the Tswalu Game Reserve in the Kalahari Desert, South Africa. The African crested porcupine is likely to be the species featured in the video. Pedro Ferreira do Amaral/Getty

In September 2022, a pit bull in New Jersey died after a tussle with a porcupine left him with quills around his heart, lungs and digestive system.

This may well have been the fate of the Kruger Park leopard had it not seen Themba and run away back into the bushes. Themba caught the whole thing on camera from less than 100 feet away.

Users on social media have responded in shock to the persistence and bravery of the prickly parents.

"Wow!! This courage to protect the baby is made of innate strength. The thorns, fangs & claws only acts as support to your determination to fight," one user commented on Twitter.

"Every animal is deadly when it comes to protecting their offspring from other predators," said another. "The porcupette siblings are lucky this time as they had their parents to protect [them]."

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