Malayan Porcupine Hystrix brachyura

Description

The Malayan Porcupine or Himalayan porcupine (Hystrix brachyura) is a species of rodent in the family Hystricidae.Three subspecies are extant in South and South-East Asia.

The front half of the body is covered with covered with short, dark brown spines of about 30 to 50 mm long. The long pointed quills of about 200 to 230mm long protrude from the hindquarters. The long posterior quills are whitish, usually with a distinct blackish ring located about half to two thirds of the distance from the base. The tail is short , with 2 types of quills, long black and white, pointed quills and rattling  quills. The rattling quills are hollow, open ended flattened cylinders mounted on a short, narrow stem. The tail is hidden by long quills because the hind part of the body gradually tapers towards the tail. The whiskers(vibrissae) are very long and dark. The ears are small. The nasal bones are shorter than in hodsoni averaging 43.3% of the occipitonasal length (Ellerman 1940)The occipital crest is well developed, but the sagittal crest is rather low. The palette is pitted with numerous small holes

Range

The Malayan porcupine ranges from Nepal through North-east India (Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, West Bengal, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland), to central and southern China (Xizang, Hainan, Yunnan, Sichuan, Chongqing, Guizhou, Hunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, Hong Kong, Fujian, Jianxi, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan, Hubei, Shaanxi, Gansu), throughout Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam, through Peninsular Malaysia, to Singapore, Sumatra (Indonesia) and throughout Borneo (Indonesia, Malaysia, Sarawak[5] and Brunei). It is also present on the island of Penang, Malaysia. It can be found from sea level to at least 1,300 m  This species and its close relatives is believed to have originated from southern Asia based on their current distribution. Their origin may lie from a common Late Pleistocene ancestor when Sumatra, Borneo and Palawan were part of Sundaland.

Habitat and ecology

It is found in various types of forest habitats as well as open areas near forests. It may stray into nearby agricultural areas. It digs into the ground and inhabits dens near rocky areas, where it lives in small groups. It has a gestation period of 110 days and a litter size of two or three. The species may give birth to two litters annually.

Their habitat is terrestrial where they are living in the hole of tree barks or roots. It also living in a burrow, from which a network of trails penetrate into surrounding habitat. It can be found in all forest types up to 1500m.With a huge habitat range of nearly the entire continent of Asia and even further into neighbouring continents, the Malayan Porcupine is one of the most widely yet sparsely spread out rodents on Earth. What makes the habitat of these creatures unique, however, is the type of terrain that they live in. They live in heavily wooded areas and make their dens in rocky areas of the ground. Malayan Porcupines create burrows which lead into huge networks of tunnels beneath their surrounding habitats, allowing them to get around during the daytime without being exposed to sunlight. They live with other adults of their
species and usually produce litters of two or three pups after a pregnancy of around 110 days.
The Malayan Porcupine is covered at birth with soft quills which sharpen into rigid, hard quills upon reaching adulthood. This is the animal's defence mechanism and is effective to most predators and hunters that come after these porcupines. Though not predators themselves, they eat fruits, roots, nuts, and insects, as well as carrion (or dead animal matter).

Threats

In general, the Malayan Porcupine is endangered because of over-hunting and human overpopulation into their habitats. There are tribes of people who eat them and who use their quills for decorative purposes. They are also hunted by feral cats, some types of wild hogs, and other predatory animals that live in the same region as they do. In some countries like Vietnam, their paws are considered good-luck charms just as rabbits' feet are in the United States. Without a little consideration and help from mankind, this unique species will become extinct very quickly. The International Union for Conservation of Nature ranks the Malayan porcupine as a vulnerable species with a high likelihood of facing extinction in the wild. This is due to the fact that they are hunted for their meat. They are also hunted to be displayed as decoration for their unique quills and colouring.  The Malayan Porcupine is listed as Vulnerable (VU), considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild, on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species It is a large and stout bodied rodent covered with quills which are sharp, rigid structures. The quills/spines are modified hair.[6] The quills or spines on their upper body parts are rough with black and white or yellowed stripe in colour. The young’s soft quills become hard as they enter adulthood. It has short stocky legs covered in brown hairs which have four claws on the front and five on the hind legs. Both front and hind legs have smooth soles. The head and body measurement are around 63-72.5 cm and their tail is about 6–11 cm. Their weight is around 0.7 kg-2.4 kgIUCN has categorized this species as Least concern(LC) species. The quills of the Malayan Porcupine are used for ornamental purposes. They are also hunted for meat In Southeast Asia, it is hunted for food but this not thought to impact populations. In South Asia, it is threatened by habitat loss due to construction of dams, human settlements and other infrastructure development. It is harvested for subsistence food and medicinal purposes (Molur et al. 2005).

Conservation Actions:

This species is present in many protected areas. It is known from the following protected areas in South Asia, Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh in north-eastern India, Lang Tang National Park in Central Nepal, and Sagarmatha National Park in Eastern Nepal (Molur et al. 2005). In South Asia it is protected by Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act.

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