Chomping Grounds

Chompers, the Virginia Zoo’s only Cape 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!