Four-toed hedgehog

Four-toed hedgehog

Atelerix albiventris

Conservation status: In the wild: IUCN – LC (Least concern).

Geographic range: In the wild mostly in southern Africa: Senegal, Sudan and Zambia.

Physical description: A relaxed hedgehog has a generally oval shape. The limbs are short and the animal’s round body is low to the ground with a very short tail. When threatened, the animal has the ability to contract a series of muscles, rolling itself into a compact ball shape, forcing its quills out in all directions. In a relaxed state, the quills lie flat against the animal’s body. They weigh between 250 and 600 grams, and their average body length is 17-23 cm. When rolled into the hedgehog’s characteristic defensive ball, the animal is about the size of a large grapefruit. Typical colouration is speckled grey with spines that are brown or grey with cream tips.

Biology: The four-toed hedgehog is a solitary animal. As a nocturnal creature, it constantly moves, covering up to several kilometres in one night. Although they are not territorial, individuals do keep a distance from other hedgehogs. When an animal discovers a particularly strong taste or scent it creates frothy saliva which it combines with the aromatic substance and then spreads across its spines. The species is sexually dimorphic with the females slightly outsizing the males. Generally, they breed once or twice a year when the conditions are right and they encounter the opposite sex. They typically mate in rainy, warm seasons, when food is plentiful, usually between October and March. Gestation lasts 35 days and they usually give birth to around 6 young. The young are born with their spines and are weaned at 4-6 weeks of age, leaving their mother soon after. They are sexually mature at around two months of age. 

Lifespan: In captivity 5-6 years.

Food habits: Insects, snails, arachnids. Tolerant to a variety of toxins and able to eat snakes and scorpions. Occasionally also consumes small amounts of plant matter or small vertebrates.

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