Seh - Porcupine
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Seh - Indian PorcupineIndian Crested Porcupine (Hystrix indica)

Common name: Hindi - Seh, Sayal; Tamil - moollam punni; Telugu - yedu pandi

Size: 70-90 cm (body); 8-10 cm (tail); with spines 18-30 cm;

Weight: 11-18 kg

Range: Haryana, rest of India and South Asia.

Characters: A large nocturnal, herbivorous, spiny, rodent, locally called Seh, belonging to family 'Hystricidae'. Porcupines are easily recognized by their hair modified more or less completely into spines. Its neck and shoulders are crowned with a crest of bristles 15-30 cm long. The quills on the back are very profuse. Each quill is ornamented with deep brown or black and white rings. They are extremely sharp and easily removed as they are a form of modified hair. The tail is covered with with shorter spines that appear white in color. Its hair is highly modified to form multiple layers of spines. Beneath the longer, thinner spines lies a layer of shorter and thicker ones. Among these, are longer, hollow, cup shaped rattling quills that are used to alarm potential predators. To warn predators, the white, open-ended tail quills produce a rattling sound when shaken. The feet and hands are broad, with long claws that are used for burrowing.

Habits: The Indian porcupine favors rocky hill sides. It adapts itself to any type of country, moist or arid, and inhabits open land and forests. As it is nocturnal, it shelters by day in caves, amongst rocks, or in a borrow. The burrow is usually self-constructed, with a long entrance tunnel, multiple exits and a large inner chamber. Gnawed bones and most of the excavated dirt are usually left at the entrance. They have a keen sense of smell and display high intelligence in evading traps.

Food Habits: The main food source for the Indian porcupine is vegetable material of all kinds, including vegetables, fruits, grains, and roots. They have also been known to chew on bones and dropped antlers of deer, in search of minerals (such as calcium) that help their spines grow. The species utilizes both natural plants and agricultural crops as food sources.

Reproduction: Gestation for the species, on average, lasts 240 days. Porcupines are found with young in the month of march. Both parents usually occupy the borrow with their offspring , which may number 2 to 4. They are born with their eyes open and body covered with short soft spines. The Indian porcupine is usually monogamous, with both parents being found in the burrow with their offspring throughout the year. Life expectancy is about 20 years.

Behavior: When irritated or alarmed, the Indian porcupine raises its quills and rattles the hollow spines on its tail. If the disturbance continues, the species launches a backward attack and clashes its rear against the offending animal. This action drives the spines deep into the enemy, often leading to severe injury or death. The majority of the damage is done by the short quills that are hidden beneath the longer, thinner spines on the tail and back. Quite often, these quills become dislodged and remain in the victim. When irritated or alarmed, porcupines erect their spines, grunt and puff, and rattle their hollow tail quills. Their method of attack is peculiar. The animal launches to itself backwards with incredible speed and clashing its hind quarter against an enemy, drives its erect quills deep into it with painful or even fatal results. The popular belief that porcupines "shoot" their quills can be disregarded.

Biomes: Tropical deciduous forest, temperate forest & rainforest, tropical scrub forest, temperate grassland, tropical savanna & grasslands, mountains.

Habitat: The Indian porcupine is highly adaptable to multiple environments. Although they usually favor rocky hill sides, the species can also be found in tropical and temperate scrublands, grasslands, and forests. They are also found throughout the Himalayan mountains, reaching up to elevations of 2400 meters.

Conservation: Throughout its range, the Indian porcupine is common and does not face a significant threat towards its continued existence. Its adaptability to a wide range of habitats and food types helps insure their healthy populations. Also, its role as a herbivore may allow it to help with the spread of seeds and pollen. The Indian porcupine uses crop plants extensively as a food resource, thus leading to a significant loss for agriculture. In addition, the species can be extremely destructive to gardens and landscaping, as they burrow through or consume the resources in these areas. Indian porcupines can cause some medical problems as well, with the possibility that humans or, more significantly, pets may come into contact with their quills.

Other Comments: The main predators for this species is man and large cats. There have been recorded fatalities of tigers and leopards that were caused by the Indian porcupine as it defended itself.

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