Hatched in September last year, this is the second offspring born to parents, ‘Chindi’ and ‘Nyingarn’. In 2015 these two animals set a record, becoming the first zoo-born echidnas to successfully breed. This was a world first.
Weighing around 1.5 kg the newest addition is the 10th echidna since 2007 to be successfully bred at Perth Zoo. Perth Zoo is considered an expert in echidna breeding, having significantly advanced global reproductive knowledge of these unusual egg laying mammals.
In 2012, Perth Zoo also bred two of the world’s first puggles from echidna mothers that were only four-years-old. Until then, it was believed that female echidnas couldn’t breed until five years of age. Monitoring by Perth Zoo staff via ‘burrow cams’ has also provided a unique insight into echidna development and breeding behaviours in the underground burrows.
Perth 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.”
Perth Zoo is the Species Coordinator for Short-beaked Echidna, liaising with Australian and international zoos to help improve breeding success for the species.
“The nursery at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is modelled from our design here at Perth Zoo and they recently welcomed their first puggle in thirty years. We have also advised zoos in Europe and recently helped a zoo in Germany rear an echidna puggle.”
Perth Zoo’s new echidna is still growing its protective covering of spines and will remain off display in its nursery burrow until it reaches about six to seven months old.
Known as monotremes, echidnas and platypus are the only Australian mammals that lay eggs.
It takes about ten 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.
In addition to building knowledge about this unique species, it is hoped the successful breeding program will assist researchers in attempts to safeguard the future of the critically endangered Long-beaked Echidna in Papua New Guinea.