AnimealsChomping Grounds

October 6, 2017

Chompers, the Virginia Zoo’s only African-crested porcupine currently in training as an Animal Ambassador, is arguably one of the most adorable program animals. His peppy and energetic personality, mixed with a little curiosity is the perfect recipe for cute, but he certainly didn’t get his name from being charming.

Chompers got his name from what he does best: chomping down on anything he can find. He eats 175 grams of rodent biscuit, 105 grams of greens, 246 grams of mixed root vegetables and 140 grams of fruit for a total of 1.47 pounds of food a day.

For this month’s Animeals, Chef Yohn put together a box of hanging veggies that would hopefully encourage natural behavior for Chompers. Porcupines often pull their food straight off of a plant, so Yohn’s enrichment involves Chompers putting in a little work to finally chomp on his meal.

Staying sharp enrichment


•1 open top cardboard box (big enough for a porcupine)

• 1/2 parsnip

• 1/2 beet

• 1/8 butternut squash

• 2 leaves green lettuce


Step 1: Cut veggies into thick chunks, except for the lettuce. Set aside.

Step 2: Cut out a hole into the short side of the box. This will be a “door”.

Step 3: Poke holes in the bottom of the box big enough to push the vegetables through.

Step 4: Push the veggies through each hole, making sure they hang on the inside of the box.

Step 5: Set the box down with the veggies hanging down inside of the box.

Step 6: Watch Chompers do what he does best!