Paignton Zoo is home to one of the only echidnas in the UK: Bruce! He has access to an outdoor space near our ostrich.
Echidnas are native to Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. They occupy a range of habitats, such as forests, woodlands and meadows.
In the wild, echidnas eat ants, worms and termites, which they collect using their long, sticky tongue.
- The protective spines all over an echidna are made of keratin – the same substance that human nails and hair are made from.
- Since they can’t sweat or pant, the echidna often seeks shade and is not very active during the hottest parts of the day.
- Echidnas are part of an animal group called monotremes. These are the only mammals that lay eggs! The only monotremes alive today are echidnas and platypus.
- After a gestation period of about 23 days, a female echidna will lay one egg in her pouch for incubation. After 10 days, this egg will hatch a baby echidna, called a puggle, which is no more than 2cm long. The puggle develops in its mother’s pouch for the next 3 months until it’s old enough to be cared for in a burrow.
Due to their widespread range, there are no known major threats to the short-beaked echidna at this time. There are numerous education programmes in Australia to encourage greater care and respect for native species such as the echidna.
Extensive efforts are being made to learn more about the conditions required to care for these unusual mammals in zoological collections outside of Australia, including here at Paignton Zoo.