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Hand-Raising a Rescued Baby Echidna

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Baby echidnas, also known as puggles, are blind, hairless, and smaller than a jellybean when they hatch.

A monotreme or egg-laying mammal, the mother echidna lays a single soft-shelled egg that’s incubated in a pouch on her belly. After 7 to 10 days, the tiny baby hatches. It feeds on milk produced by specialized glands in its mothers’ skin and stays protected in the pouch for several months until it is big enough to explore independently.

But what if a puggle gets separated from its mother before it’s ready to be on its own? Taronga Zoo Senior Keeper Sarah Male shares the story of a rescued puggle that was “bought into the hospital after members of the public saw it drop about 4m to the ground from a tree.”

holding a puggle
From the video caption:

“The puggle had scratches to its back so it’s suspected that it was taken from its burrow by a bird of prey before being dropped after proving an unsuccessful meal.

“Following an initial assessment at the hospital, Sarah is now responsible for hand-raising the puggle. This includes second-daily feeds of a specially formulated echidna milk formula which the puggle laps off her palm followed by a bath. The puggle then returns to its makeshift burrow to sleep off the feed for 48 hours before Sarah repeats the process all-over again.”

feeding a puggle

“Sarah has been a keeper at Taronga for 28 years, working with a range of animals from primates to birds, but for the last decade or so has been dedicated to helping the wildlife rescue cases that come into the Taronga Wildlife Hospital.”

As this puggle grows, it will develop spines, which are actually “long, tough, hollow hair follicles.” The spines serve as a defense mechanism against predators and can be raised or lowered as needed.

Echidnas, also called spiny anteaters, are found in Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea.

Watch these related videos next:
This is how a baby echidna (a puggle) hatches from an egg
Matilda the echidna’s allergy to ants
• The three different ways mammals give birth
• Rare baby platypus footage + a closer look at monotremes

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