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Quills and thrills as prodigious porcupine puppet unveiled

LOS ANGELES (AP) – It was a quilling experience for all. Percy, a porcupine puppet of prodigious proportions, emerged from her giant stump home for an audience of schoolchildren at a Los Angeles park on Tuesday.

The adorable beast inspired oohs and awwws as she blinked her droopy eyes and opened her mouth to show her buck teeth. She stood nearly two storeys tall with a nose the size of a Volkswagen.

A joint project of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, Percy was let out to celebrate next week’s opening of the zoo’s new Wildlife Explorers Basecamp.

Six months in the planning, the puppet is modelled on the prehensile-tailed porcupine, native to South America. It has a circumference of nearly 12 metres, and has 2,000 foam quills that it took a house-worth of paint to put stripes on.

“We’ve done some fantasy creatures a little bit bigger, but in terms of duplicating an animal it’s the biggest we’ve ever done,” said Creative Supervisor for Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Peter Brooke.The prehensile tail that gives the tree-dwelling, fruit-eating species its name exists in this case in the imagination only. Just the front half exists and pokes out, the rest appearing to stay safely inside the log.

“It’s essentially based on a big inflatable with the addition of a mouth, a jaw and mechanical eyes,” Brooke said.

A real prehensile-tailed porcupine was at the scene at Elysian Park near Dodger Stadium. The porcupine got “lost” before emerging in her giant puppet form, after the kids brought out bunches of bananas to lure her.

Los Angeles schoolchildren reach out to touch a giant puppet porcupine named Percy at Elysian Park in Los Angeles. PHOTO: AP

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