Sexually mature female Cape porcupines kept under natural conditions of illumination and temperature did not conceive while housed within their natal groups. Before removal from their natal groups the sexually mature offspring copulated and experienced cyclic ovarian activity, but conception occurred only 70-120 days after dispersal. Mean oestrous cycle length of these females (36.9 +/- 11.5 days; n = 34) was similar to that of breeding females (33.0 +/- 11.64 days; n = 16), but mean peak plasma progesterone concentration (6.45 +/- 6.03 ng/ml; n = 34) was significantly (P less than 0.01) lower than that of cyclic breeding females (13.58 +/- 6.98 ng/ml; n = 16). Mean progesterone concentration at oestrus in non-breeding females (0.72 +/- 0.45 ng/ml; n = 34) was also significantly (P less than 0.01) lower than that of non-pregnant breeding females (4.21 +/- 2.44 ng/ml; n = 16). Reproductive inhibition within natal groups, in which only one female reproduces, therefore cannot be ascribed to a failure to copulate, but may be due to some factor inhibiting full expression of luteal activity or affecting ovulation.