A baby Echidna is recovering at Australia’s Taronga Zoo after being seriously injured when its burrow was dug up by a bulldozer.
Photo Credit: Paul Fahy
Zoo keepers have taken on the role of surrogate mother to the baby Echidna, called a puggle, feeding it a special milk mixture from the palms of their hands.
The puggle was first brought to the zoo with a deep wound to the side of its body after its nursery burrow was accidentally dug up by a bulldozer in December.
Believed to have been just two months old when rescued, the Echidna required weeks of antibiotics, hand rearing and sleep in a temperature-controlled artificial burrow.
The puggle – which is still too young for keepers to determine its gender –has doubled in size since February. Dubbed ‘Newman’ after the Seinfeld character who shares its beady eyes, the puggle is finally feeding confidently.
Instead of having teats like other mammals, Echidnas have patches on their abdomen that excrete milk for their young to lap up. Newman now eats steadily for about 40 minutes at a time, stopping only to blow milk out its nose. As adults, Echidnas use their sticky tongues to slurp up ants and termites.
Echidnas belong to a group of egg-laying mammals called monotremes, which are found only in Australia and New Guinea. Their spiny coats are an effective defense against predators. If their spines aren’t enough to keep them safe, Echidnas use their powerful claws to dig themselves into the earth, disappearing like a sinking ship.
See more photos of Newman below.