RARE ECHIDNA BIRTH BOOSTS BREEDING PROGRAM

Taronga Zoo’s endangered animals breeding program has been boosted by the birth of two Echidna puggles.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the birth of two Short-beaked Echidna puggles was a promising step in the ongoing breeding and conservation of this species.

“These puggles are only the seventh and eighth to be born in the history of Taronga Zoo Sydney. That gives an indication of just how special these births are,” she said.

“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.

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 after concerns that the mother was showing signs of being unable to care for it, Ms Upton said.

“I am proud that Taronga Zoo Sydney is helping to advance understanding of this protected NSW species,” Ms Upton said.

“The knowledge about reproductive behaviours and processes gained from the breeding program at Taronga Zoo Sydney is precious.

“It’s incredible that the breeding behaviour 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,” Ms Upton said.

“Echidnas are known to be a very challenging species to breed in a zoo environment, because they display very complex courtship behaviours.

“Having the treatment facilities so the mother and newborns have best chance of survival is also of utmost importance, so we are very proud of the fantastic success at Taronga,” she said.

The puggles are nearly four months old and are not ready for public display because they still require continued care from their mothers and keepers.

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.