Zoo celebrates rare birth of two echidna puggles

By Australian Geographic 3 December 2018
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The births are a rare captive breeding success for the species, with only two other short-beaked echidnas born at the zoo in more than 30 years.

TARONGA ZOO IN Sydney has welcomed the births of two short-beaked echidna puggles, only the seventh and eighth to be born at the zoo, with the last two births in 2016 and 1987.

Part of a regional breeding program, the puggles hatched at the zoo in August to two separate mothers. While one is still being cared for by its mother, the other is being hand-reared following concerns it wasn’t taking milk from its mother, despite keepsers’ best efforts.

“This a rare and exciting event in the Australian breeding program for this species,” said Simon Duffy, Director of Wildlife Conservation and Science at Taronga.

“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,” he said.

echidna puggle taronga zoo

Image: Guy Dixon / Taronga Zoo Sydney

The puggles, which are between 90 and 100 days old, are not yet on public display. They join 18 echidnas in total at the zoo.

Simon explained that although the iconic short-beaked echidna – native to NSW – is Australia’s most wide-spread native mammal, there is still a lot to be learned about the species due to its cryptic behaviour and reclusive nature.

“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,” he said.