Echidna

First Echidna Puggles in 29 Years for Taronga Zoo

 Puggles (14)_Photo by Paul Fahy

Taronga Zoo is celebrating its first successful Short-beaked Echidna births in 29 years, with keepers monitoring the progress of three healthy Echidna babies born to three different mothers.

The puggles, as baby Echidnas are called, have just opened their eyes and begun to develop their characteristic spines in the safety and warmth of their nursery burrows in Taronga’s new Echidna breeding facility.

Puggles (4)_Photo by Paul Fahy
Puggles (7)_Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credit:  Paul Fahy
Echidnas are notoriously difficult to breed in human care, but keepers are pleased with the progress of the tiny trio and first-time mothers, Ganyi, Spike, and Pitpa.

Echidnas are one of only two Australian mammals that lay eggs (the other is the Platypus). The puggle hatches after 10 days and is carried around by its mother in a pouch-like skin fold for up to two months. Once the puggle starts to develop spines it is deposited in a specially-constructed nursery burrow and the mother returns to feed it every 3-6 days.

“All three mothers are doing an amazing job and tending to their puggles as needed. We have one mum, Spike, who is so attentive that she returns to feed her baby every second day,” said zoo keeper Suzie Lemon.

The three puggles all hatched in August. The youngest was born to mother Pitpa, who was the last Echidna born at Taronga in 1987.

“A great deal of mystery still surrounds this spiny species. Echidnas are quite elusive in the wild, so it’s hard to study their natural breeding behaviors,” said Suzie.

Suzie said the sudden success of Taronga’s Echidna breeding program could be attributed to the newly completed breeding facility, which was designed after extensive research and consultation with other zoos and wildlife parks. The facility includes insulated nest boxes to ensure the puggles remain warm and safe as they develop.

“A day in the puggle world consists of lots of sleeping. They can be buried up to 30cm deep in their burrow, so they’ll just sleep and use all their energy to grow and develop,” said Suzie.

Keepers have begun to weigh the puggles every three days to monitor their body condition and general development. The heaviest of the trio weighs over 500 grams, while the youngest weighs about 250 grams.

“This is a big step forward for Taronga. By monitoring the puggles so closely we’ve now got a good broad understanding of their growth cycle and development,” said Suzie.

Keepers have yet to choose names or determine the sexes of the three puggles, which won’t start to explore outside their burrows until early next year.

Continue reading "First Echidna Puggles in 29 Years for Taronga Zoo" »


Bulldozer Can't Stop Baby Echidna

Newman (2)A baby Echidna is recovering at Australia’s Taronga Zoo after being seriously injured when its burrow was dug up by a bulldozer.

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Newman (11)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.

Continue reading "Bulldozer Can't Stop Baby Echidna" »


Echidna Puggle Gets a Helping Hand

1 pugglePhoto credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

A team of veterinary nurses at the wildlife hospital of Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia has been hand-raising and caring for an Echidna puggle over the last couple of months.

The baby Echidna was found on the road between Wellington and Dubbo. It is believed its mother was hit by a car, orphaning the puggle as a result. The puggle came into care at the Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital in early November and has been cared for by vet nurses ever since.

“The puggle is now approximately four months old and responding very well under the watchful eye of the vet nurses,” said vet nurse, Jodie Milton.

“It’s feeding well and gaining weight steadily, so we’ll be able to wean it in about three to four months’ time and start introducing it to solid food.”

The little puggle has also started to develop the species’ distinctive spines, leaving its team of dedicated vet nurses pleased with its development.

It is extremely rare to see an Echidna puggle, let alone raise one, because they live in their mother’s pouch for two to three months before moving into a secluded burrow for up to a year.

In the coming months the Echidna puggle will be transferred to Taronga Zoo in Sydney to join the Short-beaked Echidna breeding program at the Zoo.

“It will be some time before the puggle will be able to fend for itself, but until then it’s in safe hands,” said Jodie.


A Puggle is Born at Australia Zoo

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Who's this little critter? It's a 30-day-old Echidna baby, known as a 'puggle'— one of only 24 ever bred in captivity! The proud parents are Tippy and Pickle of Australia Zoo. The tiny baby, whose sex has not been announced, is well cared for by its mom, Tippy. 

Echidnas are monotremes, the only living group of egg-laying mammals. Echidnas breed in July and August. Four weeks after conception, the mother lays a single, soft egg and places it in a pouch on her abdomen. After just ten days, a tiny, naked puggle hatches and continues to develop in mom's warm pouch, lapping up milk secreted from glands on her abdomen. The puggle will stay in Tippy's pouch for about 60 days until it is just too spiky to carry around. Then she will hide her baby in a burrow under a log and return to nurse it occasionally until it is weaned at about seven or eight months old. 

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Echidnas live only in Australia and New Guinea. They have no teeth, but are well adapted to eat termites, ants, beetle-larvae, and other soil invertebrates: their large strong claws are great for breaking open rotting logs, and their long snouts allow them to root around in soil. Short-beaked Echidnas are a very common species, but the other three species (the Sir David's Long-beaked, Eastern Long-beaked, and Western Long-beaked Echidnas) are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They are threatened by hunting as well as by habitat loss from logging and agricultural expansion. The successful birth of another puggle in captivity brings us a step closer to conserving these unique creatures. 


UPDATE! Beau the Orphaned Echidna Now Has Spikes

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You’ve been watching Beau the orphaned puggle (baby Echidna) grow up on the pages of ZooBorns ever since it was found on a hiking trail near Sydney, Australia and brought to the Taronga Zoo.   

Upon arriving at the zoo in October, Beau was about a month old and nearly hairless.  About a month later, you could see fine hairs beginning to sprout.  Now, Beau is growing the coat of protective spikes typical of adult Echidnas. 

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Photo Credits:  Taronga Zoo

 “I’m thrilled with Beau’s speedy development!  With fur and larger spines, Beau certainly looks like an Echidna now!” said veterinary nurse Annabelle Sehlmeier, who also acts as Beau’s surrogate mother.

More agile and co-ordinated, Beau is also starting to explore the surroundings and exhibit Echidna behaviours.

“Beau’s become adventurous and now climbs out of the travelling box. When disturbed, the young Echidna will flinch, curl up, or dig into the dirt, which is exactly what Echidnas do,” Annabelle explained.

The puggle, which weighs about three pounds (1.3 kg), lives in a large plastic tub with dirt for burrowing, although it still finds comfort in its nesting box that contains shredded paper and a tea towel.

 


UPDATE: Beau the Orphaned Echidna Puggle is Going Strong

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ZooBorns has been keeping fans of Beau the Echidna puggle updated on his progress ever since he was introduced on October 23.  That's when the Taronga Zoo first shared photos of the tiny baby Echidna after he was found orphaned on a hiking trail near Sydney, Australia.  Taronga Zoo staff estimate that he was about a month old at the time of his rescue.

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Photo Credit:  Taronga Zoo

Two months later, Beau is growing strong under the care of the Taronga Zoo staff.  Beau will take milk from his keepers' hands for several more months, as Echidnas are not fully weaned until they are seven or eight months old.  Echidna puggles normally suck milk from patches on their mothers' bellies, rather than from teats. 

Echidnas are mammals, but they belong to a subgroup of mammals called monotremes.  This speical group includes Echidnas and Platypus, and they are the only mammals that lay eggs.


World's First Breeding of Zoo-Born Echidnas at Perth Zoo

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Perth Zoo’s groundbreaking Echidna breeding program has produced two puggles (baby Echidnas) and a breeding milestone: These puggles represent the first successful breeding from zoo-born Echidnas and have shown that Echidnas breed at a younger age than previously thought.

The puggles were born to four-year-old first-time mothers Mila and Chindi, both bred and born at Perth Zoo.  The new additions were named Nyingarn (Nyoongar for Echidna) and Babbin (Nyoongar for friend).  The puggles weighed less than one gram each when they hatched in August and spent their first two months in their mothers’ pouches before being deposited in nursery burrows. DNA testing will reveal the puggles’ genders.

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“Until now, it was believed female Echidnas did not breed until the age of five so these latest births have shed new light on Echidna reproduction,” Environment Minister Bill Marmion said.  The groundbreaking work of the Perth Zoo’s Short-beaked Echidna breeding program could help conserve its endangered cousin, the Long-beaked Echidna.  The Perth Zoo has produced eight of the 24 Short-beaked Echidnas that have been bred in captivity.

Short-beaked Echidnas are part of a group of mammals called monotremes.  Females lay a single egg, which is incubated for about 11 days before it hatches.  The baby, called a puggle, completes its development in the mother’s pouch.  As adults, Short-beaked Echidnas are covered with spines.  They feed on insects, which are collected with their long, sticky tongues.

Photo Credit:  Perth Zoo


Baby Echidna Puggle Update!

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Does this puggle look familiar? Many ZooBorns readers first learned about puggles after being introduced to this little girl on October 23. We're happy to report that Beau, Taronga Zoo's Short-beaked Echidna baby, also known as a puggle, is doing very well under the watchful eyes of the nurses in their wildlife hospital.

In the wild, female Echidnas return to their burrow every few days to feed their offspring, so Beau gets fed milk every three days, which has helped her triple in size. Her caregivers have begun exposing the youngster to dirt, so that Beau can learn to dig and burrow! She is developing a prickly coating of spikes, which rise a few millimetres above her skin, as pictured in its most recent image below.

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Photo Credit: photo 1, Ben Gibson, Photo 2, Lorinda Taylor

In case you ddin't see it, here's the video of Beau nursing and getting cleaned up. 

 


Meet Beau, The Orphan Echidna Puggle

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A 30-day-old Short-Beaked Echidna (puggle) was brought to Taronga Zoo after it was found helpless on a hiking trail near Sydney, Australia. It's quite possible the tiny puggle  fell out of its mother's pouch as typically, Echidna babies are left in cozy burrows at around 45 days of age. Echidna moms typically return to these dens once every few days to feed their young. At the moment, this tiny orphaned puggle is sucking milk from her human caretaker's hand. Female Echindas do not have teats, but rather feed their young from milk patches on their bodies. Echidnas are not weened until six or seven months of age, so this little one will be receiving lots of T.L.C. in the months to come.

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Photo credit: Ben Gibson / Taronga Zoo

 

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Pricklier By The Day, Perth's Puggle is Growing Up!

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Kai the Echidna born last year at Perth Zoo is growing well. Now Kai weighs nearly 1.2 kg and, as you can see, the spines are really starting to come through. Kai is the sixth echidna born at Perth Zoo since 2007. A mother Echidna incubates a single egg for about 11 days before it hatches. The puggle weighs less than one gram when it hatches. The puggle is then carried around in its mother’s pouch for two months before being deposited in a nursery burrow.

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Photo credits: Perth Zoo