Posted on 04th December 2018 by Media Relations
TARONGA ZOO SYDNEY HAS announced the birth of two Short-beaked Echidna puggles, a promising step in the ongoing breeding and conservation of this species. These two puggles are the seventh and eighth to be born at Taronga Zoo Sydney, a leading contributor to the regional breeding program. The last two births at Taronga were in 2016 and 1987.
Echidnas, although iconic, are unusual animals known as monotremes – mammals that lay eggs. Despite being warm-blooded, their young puggles are hatched from eggs and mothers produce milk for their puggles in their pouch. The only other species of monotreme is the Platypus, both of which are native to NSW.
The puggles hatched in August to two separate mothers, and although one puggle is being cared for by its mother, keepers made the difficult decision to hand-rear the second puggle at the Taronga Wildlife Hospital after concerns that the puggle wasn’t taking milk from its mother, despite her best efforts.
Simon Duffy, Director of Wildlife Conservation and Science at Taronga Conservation Society Australia said that while the Short-beaked Echidna is the most widespread native mammal in Australia, there is still a lot to be learnt about this species due to their cryptic behaviour and reclusive nature.
“This a rare and exciting event in the Australian breeding program for this species. The knowledge about reproductive behaviours and processes gained from the breeding program here at Taronga Zoo Sydney across Australia is precious,” said Mr Duffy.
“It’s incredible that the breeding behaviours of some of Australia’s most iconic wildlife is not yet fully understood. It is hoped that what keepers learn about the successful reproduction of Short-beaked Echidnas can be applied in the conservation of the critically-endangered Long-beaked Echidna found in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia,” Mr Duffy said.
“Echidnas are known to be a very challenging species to breed in a zoo environment, as they display very complex courtship behaviours and only require male interaction at very specific times. Having the facilities that give the mother and newborns the best chance of survival is also of utmost importance, so we are very proud of the fantastic success at Taronga,” he said.
The puggles, which are between 90-100 days old, are not yet on public display and still require some growing up and continued care from their mothers and keepers. Taronga now cares for 18 Echidnas in total, including these two new puggles.