Check out Australia Zoo’s Short-beaked Echidnas!
Here at Australia Zoo we LOVE our short-beaked echidnas. In fact, they are Bindi’s all-time favourite animal! Did you know echidnas are an an egg-laying mammal? That’s right, they are one of just two monotremes, the other being the platypus. They are very different to a porcupine – porcupines are actually rodents whereas the echidna is an ancient type of marsupial. Additionally, echidna cannot eject their spines, whereas a porcupine can.
Echidnas are found all over Australia, including Tasmania. They have adapted to thrive in many harsh, Australian environments. They have a spiky exterior consisting of spines made from keratin – the same stuff as our hair and fingernails! These spines are perfect for protecting themselves against potential predators. Echidnas are preyed upon by foxes, goannas and feral cats. If under attack or feeling threatened, the echidna will roll into a ball, protecting their body with those sharp spines. The echidna will use their powerful feet and claws to dig into the earth, leaving only their spiky exterior revealed. Crikey! It’s genius!
Being a monotreme, the echidna lays one egg at a time. The egg will hatch after approximately 10 to 14 days and the young (called a puggle) will emerge hairless, blind and smaller than a 10 cent piece. Clinging to hairs inside the mother’s pouch, the puggle will suckle for up to three months. At around 60 days old the echidna begins to develop spines and quickly becomes too prickly to remain in its mother’s pouch. Mum will then build a burrow for it as it continues to suckle and grow.
Echidnas have a long lifespan of 30 to 40 years in the wild, and up to 50 years in zoos! We are lucky enough in Australia to still have many echidnas living throughout our varied environments, so it’s not that uncommon to see them and they are really special to experience in the wild. Woo-hoo!
40 - 55 centimetres
2 - 5 kilograms
10 -14 days