A prickly new arrival made its first public appearance at Perth Zoo yesterday. The Echidna Puggle, the latest breeding success at the zoo, was given a quick weigh and inspection by keepers, before being placed back in its nursery burrow where it will spend the next two to three months. The youngster weighed in at 526 grams and will continue to grow over the next three to four years before reaching the normal adult weight of around 4 kg. The Puggle, named Kai (Nyoongar for surprise), weighed less than one gram when it hatched in September and spent the first two months of its life in its mother’s pouch. “Once the puggle’s spines started to emerge the mother deposited it in the nursery burrow,” Perth Zoo’s Australian Fauna Supervisor Arthur Ferguson said.
Only 17 echidnas have been born in captivity in Australia and Perth Zoo is proud to have produced six of them. “Temperature plays an important role in many stages in the echidna’s breeding cycle from producing the egg and incubating it, to keeping the puggle safe in a burrow and developing well,” Mr Ferguson said.
The work undertaken with Short-beaked Echidnas may also help in conserving its endangered cousins, the Long-beaked Echidnas, which are facing extinction in the wild. Perth Zoo’s research provides a solid foundation for a captive breeding program to be established for Long-beaked Echidnas if required.
Long-beaked Echidnas, found only in New Guinea, have never been bred in captivity. The Short-beaked Echidna is found in Australia, New Guinea and some off-shore islands.