Zoo Officials Were on Pins and Needles—as Was Mom—when Duke and His Siblings Were Born

updated 04/29/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/29/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Here's a little critter who's clearly dressed to quill. He's Duke, a teensy, two-ounce hedgehog, one of a litter of four born five weeks ago at Busch Gardens in Tampa.

One would think that giving birth to four of these pint-size pincushions would be a rather prickly affair. But the delivery went off without a hitch because Mother Nature has seen to it that a baby hedgehog's spines lie flat in a protective placenta as the newborn slides down the birth canal.

Right now Duke, brothers Zeke and Ernest and sister Carley, being nocturnal creatures, are busy nursing with Mama under a big bath towel. But just as soon as they are old enough—in a few weeks—Duke and his siblings will scamper from the nursery to a large room that looks just like the desert their ancestors came from. Instead of sand, there will be cat litter-like granules on the floor. There, Duke, who will eventually weigh about two pounds, will practice rolling up in a ball to make like a cactus and will have plenty of canned dog food, raw eggs and mealworms to eat. In short, he'll be in hedgehog heaven.

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