African Hedgehog
Atelerix albiventris

CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Insectivora
FAMILY: Erinaceidae

SIZE:
Approx. 8 inches long

RANGE:
Africa

HABITAT:
Plained areas

DIET:
Wild - Insects, earthworms, snails and slugs, some vegetation, tiny newborn rodents; (Insectivore)

Zoo - Meat, mealworms, insects

ADAPTATIONS:
Nocturnal; Solitary -- meets mate when out foraging for food; cannot see well; relies on hearing and smelling instead. True hibernator and is sensitive to cold weather; has a short stubby tail.

Defense behavior -- rolls into ball and erects quills when frightened or alarmed. Will hiss when frightened. A louder call is distress signal.

The presence of dense, barbless spines is not a feature unique to hedgehogs, but the musculature that acts like a purse string to draw the hegehog into a spiny ball is.

Lives under hedges or roots of trees and roots with its nose (like a hog) in the ground to find insects to eat, thus the name hedgehog. If they can catch a worn they will run backwards to pull it from its hole.

Slow rolling walk; can run rapidly; good swimmers; agile climbers

FACTS:
5 - 8 year life span; Natural predator -- Verreaux's Eagle Owl

One of the oldest surviving mammalian families -- fossils dating back 40,000 - 60,000 years. Differ greatly from closest relatives, shrews and moles. Hedgehogs are not related to the porcupine which is a rodent. (Pocupine quills have a barb, hedgehog's don't; hedgehogs are insectivores and porcupines are rodents.)

There are no hedgehogs native to the Americas.

YOUNG:
Makes a nest of leaves of hedges or in the roots of trees or other holes. Gestation period is 35 - 39 days. At birth they are about the size of a AA battery, born naked with the spines covered by a layer of tissue to protect the mother. Eyes and ears are closed at birth. After a couple of days the darker harder spines begin to erupt.

Hedgehogs suckle milk from the mother and grow very fast. Young follow mother about four weeks and at six weeks are eating on their own. At eight weeks are about the size of the mother and ready to get out on their own. Young hedgehog called urchin.

AFRICAN CULTURE:
In east Africa the skin and spines of the hedgehog are prized as fertility charms, and among the farmers of Karamoja and Teso, East Africa, a bumper crop is assured if a hedgehog skin is placed on the seeds before sowing. And if you wish to maximize your cotton yield, a hedgehog skin should be burned in the cotton field to increase productivity. Hedgehogs are welcomed around the homes because they eat insects. They are also killed often along roads at night while looking for food.

STATUS:
CITES App. II; considered not threatened but has become rare in some areas due to hunting, habitat loss, and collecting for the pet trade.

REFERENCE:
"Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia," Vol. II, Mammals II