COAL VALLEY, Ill. — Niabi Zoo is welcoming a new family member to the Quad Cities area.
When Niabi Zoo staff walked into the Biodiversity Building on Jan. 7, they found a surprise. The zoo's two African Cape Porcupines had given birth to a baby.
"We usually do morning checks on all of our animals when we get here first thing in the morning," Niabi Zoo Biodiversity Zookeeper Leanna Parker said. [We] discovered [the] baby was born overnight."
It's Niabi Zoo's first ever African Cape Porcupine born on site. They're native to the the dry-woodlands of South Africa and are the world's second-largest porcupine.
"[The] baby was already up walking around, exploring the enclosure [and] kind of following mom and dad around," Parker added. Parker is the primary zookeeper for the porcupines and says her first reaction upon seeing the baby was excitement.
"They're a part of a recommended breeding program that we work with. So they were a recommended breeding pair. We were hopeful; we had seen breeding behavior. So this was something that we were hoping would happen, and we were very excited," Parker added.
Parker said they try to mimic what the native habitat of the porcupines is so they feel comfortable.
"The fact that they were willing to have a baby it tells us that we're doing the right things for them," Parker said.
And they want to keep doing the right things by allowing the porcupines to bond with minimal human interaction. And because of this, staff do not yet know the baby's gender. Therefore, a name has yet to be announced.
But the birth highlights the importance of animal habitat conservation.
"Our mission is providing the best animal welfare and wellness that we can for our animals, while telling a story and talking about conservation and educating our public about what why they should love these animals, including these porcupines as much as we do," Niabi Zoo Assistant Director Tammy Schmidt said.