The Southern African Hedgehog, also known as Atelerix frontalis, is a mammal species categorized under the family Erinaceidae. Erinaceidae is a family that consists of moonrats and hedgehogs across the world. The Southern African Hedgehog’s closest relatives include the Desert Hedgehog, Indian Hedgehog, Hugh’s Hedgehog, Long-eared Hedgehog, and Four-toed Hedgehog.
This hedgehog species was first described in 1831 by Sir Andrew Smith KCB, a Scottish explorer, surgeon, zoologist, and ethnologist who was dubbed as the father of zoology in South Africa.
The Southern African Hedgehogs are no threat to humans. If anything, they are beneficial to human practices. Many Southern African Hedgehogs live in suburban gardens and eat some pests that can damage people’s crops. However, humans pose a considerable threat to their population due to numerous reasons. For one thing, numerous Southern African Hedgehogs are killed by moving vehicles. Some southern African cultures believe that the smoke emitted from burning the Southern African Hedgehog’s spines and dried meat can drive spirits away. Southern African Hedgehogs also serve a traditional medical purpose, for its fat is believed to cure children’s earaches. Humans are also hunting them as a food source.
But despite these threats, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorized this species as Least Concern because Southern African Hedgehogs are common and widespread throughout its identified range.
Its seven levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: A. frontalis
The physical characteristics of a Southern African Hedgehog
The Southern African Hedgehog’s body is covered with small spines except for its underpart, face, and ears, which are covered with fine fur. One distinct characteristic of this species is its white band that runs across its forehead, extending over the shoulders to the throat and chest. This band varies in width, which can give the animal a lighter or darker appearance. Its spines are white at the base, dark brown at the center, and black at the tips. It has five toes per hind and front paw. An adult Southern African Hedgehog measures around 22 cm in length, including tail length. A female South African Hedgehog has two pairs of nipples on the chest and one pair on the abdomen.
The distribution and habitat of Southern African Hedgehogs
These hedgehogs occur in two geographically separated regions in southern Africa. One population can be found in western Zimbabwe, eastern Botswana, and Cape Province in South Africa. The other population lives between south-western Angola and northern Namibia.
Southern African Hedgehogs can be found in various habitats, particularly in scrublands, grasslands, rocky regions, savannahs, and suburban gardens. They seldom occur in arid areas such as deserts and very wet areas like marshes.
The behavior of a Southern African Hedgehog
This hedgehog species is usually solitary, except when females are rearing their young. Each hedgehog has a home range of 200-300 meters from the area it inhabits, which is generally a hole in the ground. This mammal is a nocturnal creature, spending most of the day in its hole, underneath leaves, or behind bushes to wait for night to arrive. Although slow movers, when the Southern African Hedgehog is threatened, it can move surprisingly quickly at 6-7 km/h. It also defends itself by rolling into a ball, leaving spines in its trails to attack the predator. It communicates with other hedgehogs through snuffling, growling, and snorting. Southern African Hedgehogs butt each other’s heads when fighting.
Southern African Hedgehogs form monogamous pairs throughout the breeding season, which occurs during summer. A courtship display is characterized by a male walking in circles around the female. The latter will keep on rejecting the male until it’s ready to mate. The gestation period happens for 35 days. After this, the female will give birth to a litter with 1 to 11 hoglets. The young are born blind and with infant spines, which will be shed when they turn a month old. After two weeks, the hoglets will open their eyes, and after six weeks, they will forage with their mother. The male doesn’t take part in rearing the young.
The diet of a Southern African Hedgehog
This species is primarily insectivores, feeding on a wide variety of food like beetles, grasshoppers, termites, moths, centipedes, earthworms, millipedes, and slugs. They also feed on frogs, lizards, bird eggs, small mice, and chicks when available.
WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND:
• Hluhluwe Game Reserves
• Kruger National Park
• St Lucia Wetlands