Baby echidna recovering from chicken attack

By AG Staff Writer 29 April 2016
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A four-month-old echidna puggle is recovering well at Taronga Zoo in Sydney after being attacked by chickens in a family’s backyard.

A BABY ECHIDNA – or puggle – has been brought to Taronga Zoo in Sydney after being attacked by chickens in a family backyard near Newcastle, on the New South Wales Central Coast.

The puggle suffered scratches on its belly and legs, and was also dehydrated and unusually small for its four months of age when it was brought to the zoo about two weeks ago. Now, it is making a remarkable recovery after receiving emergency first aid followed by round-the-clock care from Taronga Wildlife Hospital supervisor Annabelle Sehlmeier. 

“We’re not sure if the baby was alone because its mother died or because it was accidentally dug out of its nursery burrow,” said Annabelle.

Echidna puggle feeding

The puggle is fed from the palm of the hand instead of a bottle, as echidnas do not have teats but excrete milk from a special patch on the mother’s abdomen. (Image: Paul Fahy)

Nicknamed Bonsai for its size, the puggle is still too young for vets to determine its gender. In the two weeks since it has been at Taronga – being fed a special milk mixture from the palm of ‘surrogate mum’ Annabelle’s hand – Bonsai has grown from 400g to 530g.

“Normally a baby echidna would feed every three to five days when its mum returns to the burrow, but this little one wants to feed every day. I guess it’s making up for lost time,” Annabelle said.

Puggle echidna Taronga Zoo

Small for its age, baby Bonsai has gained 130g in two weeks. (Image: Paul Fahy)

Instead of having teats like other mammals, echidnas have patches on their abdomen that excrete milk for their young to lap up, which is why Annabelle feeds the puggle from the palm of her hand.

“My palm is the closest thing I’ve got to an echidna belly and it works quite well,” she said. “After a feed the puggle will have a little wander around in my lap and then go to sleep.”

Bonsai will remain in Annabelle’s care for a few more months, as it is gradually introduced to a special echidna diet and learns to feed itself.

VIDEO: Bonsai the baby echidna at Taronga Zoo