Tarongo Zoo has celebrated the births of three adorable echidnas – the first time in nearly 30 years an animal of their kind have been welcomed at the Sydney facility.
The short-beaked echidna puggles have opened their eyes and begun to develop their characteristic spines in the safety and warmth of their nursery burrows in Taronga’s new echidna breeding facility in Sydney.
First-time mothers Ganyi, Spike and Pitpa have each been tending to their young ones after carrying them around in a pouch-like skin fold for up to two months after they began to hatch between August 16 to 30.
‘All three mothers are doing an amazing job and tending to their puggles as needed,’ keeper Suzie Lemon said.
‘We have one mum, Spike, who is so attentive that she returns to feed her baby every second day.’
The puggles which hatch after ten days are carried around by their mothers until they start to develop a spine.
Once this begins to occur, keepers transfer the puggles to a specially constructed nursery burrow and the mother returns to feed it every 3-6 days.
Echidna’s are notoriously difficult to breed in human care but their progress over the past few week have pleased their keepers.
‘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.
As the puggles develop keepers to weigh them every three days to monitor their body condition and general development.
The heaviest of the trio weighs over 500 grams, while the youngest weighs about 250 grams.
‘A day in the puggle world consists of lots of sleeping. They can be buried up to 30cm deep in their burrow, so they’ll just sleep and use all their energy to grow and develop,’ said Suzie.
The youngest was born to mother Pitpa, who was the last echidna born at Taronga in 1987.
‘This is a big step forward for Taronga. ,’ said Suzie.
The keepers have yet to choose names or determine the sexes of the three puggles.