Second Chance at Life for a Sumatran Porcupine

Photo: Benny released into the wild. © Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Agency of South Sumatra

Story by Pungky Nanda Pratama

This is the story of a wild porcupine named Benny, who was living in a small zoo called Ribang Kemambang in Lahat Town, South Sumatra. Sadly, he had been caught by local people on their plantation and taken to the zoo, instead of being released back into the wild.

The Biodiversity Conservation Agency Regional II and I were alerted about this porcupine, and after negotiations between Mr. Kamaludin, the Senior Forest Police, the Chief of Ribang Kemambang Recreational Park and the Tourism and Cultural Authority of Lahat Town, we were granted permission to release Benny back into the wild.

Conservation law in Sumatra states that all wild animals, especially protected ones, are forbidden from being kept without a permit. The Nature and Biodiversity Agency continues to play a crucial role in saving wildlife and encouraging local people to release wild animals back into their natural habitats.

Photo: Chief of Recreational Park together with Conservation Agency staff Evacuate Benny from the cage. © Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Agency of South Sumatra

The Sumatran porcupine (Hystrix sumatrae), is one of many endemic species found living in Sumatra and is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN. The Sumatran porcupine is native to a variety of primary or secondary forest throughout most of the island. (Genus Hystrix — the genus containing most of the old world porcupines) are the largest, weighing up to 30 kg and growing up to a meter long. Like the other species of Genus Hystrix, they are terrestrial mammals and move slowly in a ponderous walk. They are herbivorous and love eating fallen fruit and digging for underground plants. The Sumatran porcupine isn’t aggressive, but its spines can be dangerous when it feels threatened.

Photo: Road to Freedom: Benny travels to his new home in the wild with the Chief of Recreational Park and the Conservation Agency staff. © Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Agency of South Sumatra

On the 20 April 2018, we transported Benny to his release site. We choose Bukit Sarelo Protected Area because it is not far from our office. However, it took three hours by car as we had to drive slowly due to the poor condition of the roads.

When we arrived in the protected area, we had to walk two hours to the release site of Lowland Forest. We decided to release Benny near a stream that had good vegetation and is the habitat of many wild animals including wild porcupine. We still see muntjak, mouse deer, Leopard cat and other mammals in this area.

Photo: Conservation Agency staff carry Benny to the release site a two hour walk into Bukit Sarelo Protected Area. © Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Agency of South Sumatra

We were so pleased to have been able to release Benny back into his natural habitat, and we hope he can find his lover and create a new family in a new home. Although they are listed as Least Concern, the Sumatran porcupine is under significant threat due to declining habitat and is hunted for food and the illegal pet trade. We believe every small effort will help protect the Sumatran porcupine’s habitat and we will continue to support all manner of conservation efforts in this and many other areas of South Sumatra.

Photo: The team prepare to release Benny. © Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Agency of South Sumatra

Photo: Benny takes his first steps of freedom. © Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Agency of South Sumatra.

Follow more of Pungky’s work on Facebook and Instagram.