Weja was adopted by Taronga Veterinary Nurse Elizabeth McConnell, who has been caring for the little echidna at her home and regularly feeding it a special milk formula. Weja was named after the place where it was found, about six hours from Sydney in central NSW.
This week Weja and Liz reached an important milestone – Liz left Weja at the hospital overnight for the first time. Watch our interview footage with Liz to find out more. At the link below you will find this footage, as well as overlay of Weja now and also some gorgeous footage of the echidna as a tiny puggle when it first arrived. Please also see below for more information.
“I’m extremely happy with Weja’s progress over the last few months. It’s growing really lovely spines and fur, and it’s putting on weight,” says Taronga Veterinary Nurse, Elizabeth McConnell.
LOTS MORE PHOTOS BELOW THE FOLD!
This week Liz began leaving Weja at the hospital overnight for the first time since the little echidna came into her care. “It’s a big day for both of us,” she said. “It’s exploring a lot more, it’s more active and it has begun digging. It doesn’t need to be at home with me anymore.”
To prepare Weja for the next stage of its life at Taronga Wildlife Hospital, Liz moved the echidna into a bigger tub filled with dirt and leaf litter.
“I’m feeling a little nervous,” Liz says, “I guess like mums do when they leave their young ones overnight for the first time. But I’m happy.”
Liz estimates that Weja is now just over five months old. “In the wild, at this stage of its life, its mother would be returning to the burrow every 3-10 days to feed it, so I am basing my feeds on this behaviour. When Weja is awake and active, I know it is time to feed it, otherwise it is asleep and digesting the milk.
“I also feel and look at its abdomen to make sure it doesn't have a belly full or partly full of milk, as they need to have fully digested the previous milk feed before the next one. The longest time Weja has gone between feeds is six days, which was after a very large volume of milk – it drank 39.5 per cent of its body weight in one hour!”
Liz has also begun introducing Weja to an adult echidna diet. Once Weja has been completely weaned off the echidna milk formula, Liz and the rest of the Taronga Veterinary Team will begin preparing the echidna for its release back to the wild.