A tiny, short-beaked echidna puggle found alone and abandoned on a property in Weja, New South Wales, Australia, is being hand-raised at Sydney’s Taronga Wildlife Hospital.
Taronga Veterinary Nurse Liz McConnell has become the puggle’s dedicated surrogate mum. She takes the little echidna home at night and to work each morning in a makeshift burrow, fashioned from a climate-controlled esky.
An adorable short-beaked echidna puggle is the one of the latest patients to be brought into the Taronga Wildlife Hospital and is now being hand raised after an interesting turn of events saw it requiring specialist care.
The puggle was brought into the Taronga Wildlife Hospital last month from the Central Coast after members of the public saw it drop about 4m to the ground from a tree where a raven and magpie were perched. The puggle had scratches and lacerations to its back so it’s suspected that it was taken from its burrow by a bird of prey before being dropped after proving an unsuccessful meal.
After arriving at the Taronga Wildlife Hospital, the puggle was assessed by a team of vets and vet nurses including x-rays, blood tests and a thorough look over, and thankfully deemed to be in surprisingly good health considering its ordeal.
Senior Keeper Sarah Male is now responsible for hand-raising the puggle. This includes second-daily feeds of a specially formulated echidna milk formula which the puggle laps off her palm followed by a bath. The puggle then returns to its makeshift burrow to sleep off the feed for 48hours before Sarah repeats the process all-over again.
“Despite its ordeal, this little puggle doing so well. Since arriving at the hospital its lacerations have almost completely healed, it’s putting on weight and is also starting to grow a thin layer of fur all of which are all promising signs.
“While the puggle is improving every day, it is still very young and in the wild would still be dependent on mum, so will require ongoing care for the next few months. I’ve hand-raised of lots of animals throughout the years at Taronga but such a young echidna puggle is a new experience for me,” said Male.
Echidnas are only one of two species of monotremes in the world, meaning they are unique mammals that lay eggs and also suckle their young. Sadly, it is not it is not uncommon for the Taronga Wildlife Hospital to care for echidnas as they come into contact with cars on the road or are attacked by domestic pets such as dogs and cats.
This puggle joins more than 1,400 native wildlife patients who are treated by specialist vets and vet nurses across Taronga’s hospitals in Sydney and Dubbo each year. The Taronga Wildlife Hospital is open 365 days a year providing care to an array of Australian. Help our hospital team continue to their vital work by donating to our Wildlife Recovery Appeal: taronga.org.au/wildlife-recovery
Australia’s Perth Zoo has unveiled a spiky new addition: a Short-Beaked Echidna puggle.
Hatched in September last year, this is the second offspring for parents Chindi and Nyingarn, who were the world’s first zoo-born Echidnas to successfully breed in 2015. The first and second photos show the puggle at 69 days old. The remaining photos show the puggle at about six months old, looking more like a spiky adult Echidna.
Photo Credit: Perth Zoo (1,2); Alex Asbury (3,4,5)
The puggle, as baby Echidnas are called, is still growing its protective covering of spines and will remain off display in its nursery burrow for a few more months.
Weighing around 3.5 pounds, the puggle is the 10th Echidna since 2007 to successfully hatch at Perth Zoo. Perth Zoo is considered an expert in Echidna breeding, having significantly advanced global reproductive knowledge of these unusual egg- laying mammals.
Zoo keeper Katie Snushall said, “This species is notoriously difficult to breed, so to have not just one, but two puggles from zoo-born parents; and in consecutive years is a significant achievement.”
Known as monotremes, Echidnas and Platypus are the only mammals that lay eggs. These species are found only in Australia and New Guinea.
It takes about 10 days for a baby Echidna to hatch from the egg. It is then carried by its mother in a temporary pouch for the first two months until its spikes start to emerge, at which point the mother constructs a nursery burrow and places the puggle safely inside, returning only every two to six days to feed it.
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.
Photo 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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo credits: Australia Zoo
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.