Tim Faulkner is hand raising “Orphaned Eddie” a baby short-beaked Echidna (Puggle)

In a rare and extraordinary life saving attempt, Tim Faulkner and the team The Australian Reptile Park on the Central Coast of NSW at Somersby is hand raising an orphaned short-beaked baby Echidna, known as a puggle.

Named “Orphaned Eddie” by park keepers, the puggle was rescued from a dirt mound in Hunter Valley bush land, after his burrow was accidently dug up by an excavator.

Orphaned Eddie

 

“In The Australian Reptile Park’s 55 years of operation, this is only the second puggle we have ever seen causing great excitement amongst staff, however the circumstances in which Orphaned Eddie has arrived are not so pleasing,” said Tim Faulkner, General Manager and Head of Conservation at The Australian Reptile Park.

 

Eddie’s burrow was destroyed and his mother was nowhere to be seen.  In need of his mum to survive the puggle is now being hand raised by Tim Faulkner in an attempt to release him back into the wild, unless he becomes habitualized and requires our permanent care.

 

“Raising a puggle is no easy task, given their feeding technique is somewhat unique.   Instead of having teats like other mammals, echidnas have patches on their abdomen that excrete milk for their young to lap up,” added Faulkner.

 

This process is almost impossible to replicate, meaning Orphaned Eddie has to be fed by Tim Faulkner from the palm of his hand, allowing the puggle to lap milk as it would in the wild.

 

Together with the platypus, echidnas are the world’s only monotremes, or egg-laying mammals.  Echidnas produce puggles from eggs which are incubated and hatched outside their body.  A female echidna develops a primitive pouch into which she lays a single egg. The egg takes about 10 days to hatch, producing a young puggle which measures around 1.45 cm and weighs as little as 380 milligrams. The young puggle is carried around in its mother’s pouch before being drop it into a burrow for protection, in this instance Eddie’s protection was disturbed.

 

The Australian Reptile Park has created a temperature controlled artificial burrow in which Orphaned Eddie sleeps.  Echidna’s are largely nocturnal and solitary.  Some of their unique attributes include feeding every 7 to 8 days, between which they sleep. At an estimated 120 days old, Orphaned Eddie has months of hand raised caring ahead.  He fits into the palm of a hand and his spines on his back are very short, dark and covered in fur.

 

Should Orphaned Eddie continue to strengthen, The Australian Reptile Park will introduce him to their roving keeper program in an advocacy and educational role for visiting guests to admire and learn about Australian wildlife, potentially during the Dec/Jan school holidays.

 

Echidna facts:

There are two species of echidnas, the short-beaked echidna found in Australia and, and the long-beaked echidna, which is confined to the highlands of New Guinea.

 

The short-beaked echidna is the smaller of the species, they are Australia’s most widespread native mammal found in almost all habitats, from snow covered mountains to deserts living amongst rocks, in hollow logs and in holes among tree roots.

 

The short-beaked echidna’s snout is between 7 and 8 cm long, and is stiffened to enable the animal to break up logs and termite mounds when searching for food. Adult echidnas vary in size from 35 to 53 cm. Males weigh approx 6 kilograms, while females weigh approx 4.5 kilograms.  The echidna looks fearsome

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