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NAIROBI PARK DIARY

A spikey friend

Hedgehogs have as many as 6,000 quills but they are not poisonous or barbed

In Summary

• This was the first time I had seen one in the Nairobi National Park

Hedgehog
Hedgehog
Image: GARETH JONES

Some time ago, as the sun began to set, I drove towards the Langata gate. Suddenly, something small moved in the middle of the road. I stopped and saw a small, prickly animal trying to cross the road.

Wow! It was a hedgehog, it briefly curled itself into a protective huddle of a ball with the prickly spikes flared up, but then decided to rather try and find cover, and headed for some thick grass.

Hedgehogs are easily recognized by their spines, which are hollow hairs made stiff with keratin. Their spines or quills are not poisonous or barbed and can number as many as 6,000, unlike the quills of a porcupine, cannot easily be removed from the hedgehog.

It is noted that there are 17 species of hedgehog in the world, and four species are found in Africa. The species found in Kenya is the four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris), or African pygmy hedgehog.  

They are tiny just weighing up to 600g and about 20cm in length, also only living about 4 years in the wild.

This was the first time I had seen one in the Nairobi National Park as they are nocturnal creatures with an omnivore diet consisting of insects, spiders, and even scorpions, plus various plants and berries.

Since this sighting people have told me that they have been seen at other Nairobi locations like Langata, and public gardens. They can eat one-third of their body weight in one night, favorite foods are insects, earthworms, snails, and slugs, making them welcome guests in many Nairobi gardens.

So next time you visit the park, be on the lookout for unusual and rarely seen sightings, the Nairobi National Park has many hidden creations, and can be very rewarding for people who are patient and considerate, while observing nature happening around them.