First puggles born at Taronga Zoo in 29 years

By AG Staff Writer | November 18, 2016

Three short-beaked echidnas have been born at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, the first puggles born at the zoo in decades.

TARONGA ZOO KEEPERS are monitoring the health of three new short-beaked echidnas that hatched in August this year. The youngest of the puggles was born to mother Pitpa, who was the last echidna to be born at the zoo, back in 1987.

The tiny trio have just started opening their eyes and developing their characteristic spines in their burrow at Taronga Zoo’s new echidna breeding facility. 

Echidnas – one of only two Australian mammals that lay eggs, called monotremes – are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, but the keepers are pleased with the puggles’ progress.

“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 Keeper, Suzie Lemon. 

baby echidnas taronga zoo

Image: Paul Fahy / Taronga Zoo

Echidna puggles hatch after 10 days, and are carried around by their 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 three to six days.

“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 behaviours,” said Suzie.

The keepers have begun to weigh the puggles every three days to monitor their body condition and development. The heaviest of the three weighs over 500g, the youngest about 250g.

The keepers are yet to choose names for or determine the sexes of the three puggles, which won’t start to explore outside their burrows until early next year.

READ MORE: Baby echidna recovering from backyard chicken attack

baby echidnas taronga zoo

Taronga Zoo keepers are weighing the new puggles every three days to track their growth and development. The youngest weighs about 250g. (Image: Paul Fahy / Taronga Zoo)

baby echidnas taronga zoo

As their spikes start to develop, the puggles leave their mother’s pouch to live in a specially constructed nursery burrow.(Image: Paul Fahy / Taronga Zoo)

baby echidnas taronga zoo

Image: Paul Fahy / Taronga Zoo

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