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A college-educated woman returned to her village to become an expert in raising porcupines. Photo: Handout

In for the quill: Chinese college graduate corners niche market for porcupines

University graduate He Yahui faced the prickly problem of finding a white-collar job, but chose instead to return to her rural home to build a successful if unusual career

He Yahui, a young college graduate in southwestern China, didn’t follow her classmates to the city in search of a white-collar career; instead, she returned to her rural home to set up her own business – raising porcupines.

He, now in her 20s, converted space in a former factory in Weiyuan county, Sichuan province, into a pen where she has successfully raised hundreds of the spiky animals for years, local news portal reported.

College-graduate He Yahui continues to study all she can about porcupines. Photo: Handout

He, who graduated from China West Normal University, makes a profit of about 300,000 yuan (US$44,000) a year from the endeavour, far more than most white-collar workers in the province.

She chose to raise porcupines as there was far less competition than raising other more common species like pigs or chickens.

Her grandparents at first were adamant that the only family member with college education should find a good job in the city. But luckily her parents were supportive and talked the grandparents around. Mum and Dad also provided He with the capital to lease the factory premises.

Porcupine spikes, or quills, are a valuable by-product for traditional medicine or making implements. Photo: Handout

He said she encountered various problems at first, some of them unexpected. One, for example, was the “mystifying” habit of mother porcupines frequently eat their own young. But after reading all she could on the topic and just observing the animals, she worked out how to give young porcupines more space to avoid become meals for their mothers.

Now He says she has gained much knowledge and experience and today “finds it quite easy to raise the animals”. Porcupines belong to the animal order Rodentia that includes mice and rats, squirrels, beavers, hamsters and many others.

He harvests cabbages from the garden to feed to her porcupines. Photo: Handout

Porcupines are considered highly nutritious, and are referred to as “animal ginseng” in the cuisine sector. The famous sharp quills on their backs, which provide the animals with a very effective defence against predators, are also valuable and can be turned into medicine and fishing implements, He said.