Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

African White-Bellied Hedgehog

(Atelerix albiventris)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in grasslands, croplands, plains, thickets, and deserts throughout West Africa, Central Africa, and East Africa.

Size: 5-9 inches long; 9-24 ounces. Females are larger than males.

Wild Diet: Insects, grubs, snails, spiders, scorpions, plant matter, and occasionally small vertebrates. They are opportunistic feeders and may also consume eggs, fruit, or carrion when available.

Predators: Birds of prey with well-protected feet, honey badgers, jackals, and wild dogs

Lifespan: 2-3 years in the wild; up to 9 years in zoos (average 4-6 years)

Reproduction: African white-bellied hedgehogs breed once or twice a year, usually during warm, rainy seasons when food is plentiful. Females deliver up to 7 hoglets after a gestation of about 7 weeks. Hoglets stay in the nest until they are about 3 weeks old and leave their mother soon after (usually at 4-6 weeks). They reach sexual maturity at about 8 weeks but do not have their adult quills until 12 weeks and are not considered physically mature until they are 10-11 months old.

Behavior: African white-bellied hedgehogs are solitary and mostly nocturnal, but sometimes active in the early morning or late afternoon. They sleep under logs, in burrows, or in underbrush when not searching for food. They start foraging at dusk and consume up to 30 percent of their body weight in food throughout the night. When food is scarce, they hibernate. Hedgehogs from warmer climates aestivate (have decreased activity during the hottest times of year). They practice a behavior called “self-anointing”  in which they produce frothy saliva in response to unfamiliar odors, then lick their own quills, coating themselves in the saliva. This behavior may mask their scent or make their quills more irritating to predators.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Least Concern

It is currently illegal to transport African white-bellied hedgehogs out of Africa, so they are no longer threatened by the pet trade. Their populations are stable.

Did you know?

  • An African white-bellied hedgehog has about 5,000 quills on its body, each less than an inch long. Quills are modified hairs.
  • Unlike the quills of a porcupine, a hedgehog’s quills will not fall out or lodge in a predator’s skin.
  • They have a high tolerance for toxins. This allows them to consume animals with venom that would be harmful to humans, including wasps, bees, certain beetles, scorpions, and even venomous snakes.