You might not think of a porcupine living in the Brazilian rainforest, but a new-to-science species has been recently documented there. Even more surprising: they live in trees. While the discovery is exciting, it is also very sad, because these tree-dwelling porcupines are under threats due to loss of their natural habitat. They live in Brazil‘s Northeastern Atlantic Forest and this area has experienced severe degradation, with only two percent of its original forest remaining intact.
Because their habitat has been decreased so much and they live in a small, isolated swath of forest (in northeastern state of Pernambuco) they must be considered endangered. Tragically, it is fairly common for newly discovered species to be in a state of endangerment due to habitat loss and other factors such as poaching and climate change.
Lead researcher Antonio Rossano Mendes Pontes and his team have given the ‘new’ porcupine the name Coendou speratus. It lives at the mid-level of the forest, because a similar, but larger species of porcupine inhabits the upper level. The smaller porcupines mainly eat seeds and climb from one tree to another, if branches are touching and if not, climb down and walk across ground to get the next one. They must climb down and cross over ground to do this, because they don’t jump from branch to branch like squirrels do.
‘People are responsible for logging, clear-cutting and setting fire to the forests and sometimes for hunting the porcupines themselves. We began by researching all the literature that describes the fauna of the region, going all the way back to the first colonizers five centuries ago, and found out that many of the animals they described are extinct,’ he explained. (Source: AP) Mendes Pontes is a professor of conservation biology at Universidade Federal de Pernambuco.
He also pointed out that because 98% of the forest in the area has been wiped out, many species unknown to science were likely driven into extinction. This ‘new’ porcupine could have been one of those that was extinguished before the world even knew about it.