A young leopard on a road near the Rhino Post Safari Lodge of Seolo Africa in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, tried to investigate an equally young porcupine who was just crossing the road. Sensing danger, the prickly porpentine went into a defensive mode with quills raised and led the curious cat in circles. This evasive action only increased the leopard’s desire to figure out what the animal was and how to get past those pesky and very pointed quills. In the end, neither animal was hurt.
Both these young animals appear to have had to start problem-solving instead of instinctual fight or flight. The leopard can see that this creature is alive, can smell that it is food, but can’t get to the meal, so has to try tactics that it is not likely to have ever used before. It doesn’t take the leopard long to figure out that the defences (quills) are dangerous – or at the very least painful, but also that they do not appear on the underside, so it tries to slip its paw (and sometimes even its face!) under the porcupine to flip it over to get its mouth on the area it suspects has no defences …The porcupine, on the other hand, keeps turning in order to present its tail quills (which are the longest) towards the leopard, keeping it at the furthest possible distance and it seems to instinctively know that running is not an option, …What’s particularly interesting in this standoff is that although both the participants are juveniles, they manage the process in a very cautious manner, resulting in no harm to either.
It appears this type of interaction is very common in the area. While the big cats are sometimes successful, these badass porcupines appear to be quite adept at defending themselves more often than not.