There is a great event in Taronga Zoo. The whole staff is celebrating Echidna births. In the last 29 years it has just been a miracle as these are the first successful short-beaked Echidnas.
The healthy babies were born to three different mothers and are called puggles. All the keepers control the situation and monitor their progress. Opening their eyes, these little babies have begun to develop their characteristic spines. Hopefully they are in warm and careful hands and the whole staff cares for them like their own baby. They are in a safe place of Taronga’s new Echidna breeding facility.
The mothers are called Ganyi, Spike and Pitpa. According to the keepers, it’s very difficult for humans to breed Echidnas, but they are ready to take each challenge. The keepers are very happy with even the tiniest progress of the babies and provide a full care to these first-time mothers.
Echidnas are one of only two mammals of Australia that can lay eggs. Each puggle hatches after 10 days and its mother takes care of him in a pouch-like skin fold. This process takes for two months and once the puggle starts to develop spines, a special nursery burrow is deposited and the mothers feed its puggle every 3-6 days. The zoo keeper Suzie Lemon says that all three mothers are very caring and attentive to their babies and all of them do a fantastic job. Spike, one of the mothers is more than attentive and returns to feed her little baby every time she can. She doesn’t follow the routine and always wants to be beside her puggle feeding its baby every second day.
The youngest baby was the mother Pipta’s baby. Pipta was the last Echidna born at Taronga Zoo in 1987. All these three puggles hatched in August. Suzie says that it is a little bit mysterious why these species are so elusive in the wild. According to her, it is very hard to study the natural breeding behaviors of Echidnas, so everybody should be very careful to such spiny species. This new breeding way has been designed through an extensive research and consultation with many other zoos and parks. These new facilities include very comfortable nests that keep puggles safe and warm during their development.
The keeper Suzie also says that puggles need to sleep a lot. They can be buried up to 30cm deep in their burrow and while sleeping they gain energy which they use to grow and develop in the future. Every three days the puggles are weighed and their body condition and development is monitored. The youngest one weighs almost 250 grams, but the heaviest puggle weighs more that 500 grams.
Video: Taronga Sydney
The keepers haven’t yet chosen the names of the puggles, but they will do it soon.They also say that it is a great event for Toronga as by breeding them the whole staff gets deeper understanding of the growth and development of the puggles and this is really a wonderful process!