Saturday, April 17, 2010

The perils of porcupines

As I type this, my palms are growing sweaty and I'm starting to feel nauseous.
Why? Because snuffling around outside my front door is an animal that poses a very serious threat to my well-being.
A lion? Elephant? Burglar?
No. It's a porcupine.
Now you think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not.

Alright, I admit that southern African porcupines (Hystrix africaeaustralis) are not life-threatening. They're big (about waist-high when they've erected their quills) and generally fearless, and they suddenly charge backwards at you which is hugely disconcerting. But this is not the problem. I can cope with quills.

One of three porcupines that visit my compost heap nightly.

The problem is noise. My house is located directly across the river (about 200m away) from a commercial lodge, and one of the conditions of my living here is that I remain inconspicuous and make no noise.
Well, it all started harmlessly enough, with me tossing my household scraps onto the compost heap at night for the porcupines to munch. If the porcupines arrived before I'd put the scraps out (and I waited until nightfall to avoid attracting baboons), they'd trundle up to the house, making the dogs bark. Concerned about the noise, I'd dash out with the scraps, drawing the porcupines away and restoring peace.

Sadly, porcupines aren't dumb. With time, they learnt that the more the dogs barked, the quicker they got food. Now anytime they're feeling peckish they tramp up and down the garden fence, scraping their quills against the mesh and sending my dogs into a frenzy. And of course excited huskies don't just bark, they yip and yodel and give dreadful ululating howls, and it all sounds as if some animal is being torn limb from limb. Lodge guests don't respond well to this, particularly here, where poaching using dogs is rife. Thus eviction looms!

I'm currently shutting the dogs indoors when the porcupines come dog-baiting, and hopefully they'll learn that it's pointless. Fingers-crossed.


  1. Hi Lynda,

    You've spent the last 13 years in the African bush; where do you get the Huskies? Are you breeding them or do you have a mail order catalog? How many do you have?

    Our family is from Alaska, although we're currently living in Oregon, and got your blog info from Jane Bowman. (dig it.) We moved our Husky from Alaska to Colorado to Houston and she transitioned well, shed alot, and laid in any snow that came her way. She was, however, unusual and we did not often see other Huskies in the Lower 48. We're wondering where yours come from as 13 years is a pack of seriously long-lived Huskies and we're pretty sure they aren't native to Africa.

  2. Missy Meskell,
    Nice to hear from you. Thankfully my huskies aren't geriatric, although perhaps they'd cause less trouble if they were. I currently have two (I keep losing dogs to hungry crocodiles) but one is only a cross (with what I hate to imagine).
    Most of the world's dog breeds are bred here in South Africa but - apart from Jack Russell and Staffordshire terriers - they're kept less often than the breeds that originated here(boerboels and Rhodesian ridgebacks). I think huskies have become quite trendy (at least in the cities) and I adopted mine (as strays) from local SPCA shelters.


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