The spiky charm of the “niffler”

A PAIR of porcupines, which bear an uncanny resemblance to the niffler from JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, are captivating keepers at Longleat with their amusing antics.

The female prehensile-tailed porcupines, Pumpkin and Squash, both less than a year old, recently arrived at the safari park from separate collections in Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

They don’t just look adorable, they also make a curious baby-like sound to communicate with each other. And these “long-snouted burrowing creatures’’ love shiny things.

Both were bred in captivity and Longleat is awaiting the arrival of a male in the New Year in the hope they will eventually form a breeding colony of their own. “As soon as we saw them we knew Squash and Pumpkin were going to be a huge hit with both keepers and the public,” says Longleat’s head of animal adventure Graeme Dick. “They’re both still pretty young but they can move surprisingly quickly when they need to and are extremely adept at climbing,” he added.

Originally from Central and South America, the porcupines get their name from their long, hairless tails which allow them to spend most of their time living in trees. They are strict vegetarians – as well as pasta, asparagus and lentils, their diet at Longleat includes leaves, sweet potatoes, carrots, apples and pears.

Longleat is one of only two collections in the UK to keep the species, which is also known as coendous. Although the species is not currently endangered there are concerns its numbers are reducing in the wild due to habitat loss and deforestation.

The young are born with soft hair that hardens to quills as they mature. Adults are slow-moving and will roll into a ball when threatened and on the ground. The record longevity in captivity is 27 years.