Paignton Zoo is home to one of the only echidnas in the UK… meet Bruce! He has access to an indoor exhibit inside the Nocturnal House and an outdoor space by the tapir paddock.
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. To enjoy this diet, echidnas have a long, furless snout which holds a sticky tongue.
- The protective spines all over an echidna are made of keratin – the same substance that human nails and hair are made from.
- As they cannot sweat or pant, the echidna will often seek shade and not be very active during the hottest parts of the day. Unbelievably, these creatures can also swim well!
- Echidnas are part of an animal group called monotremes – these are the only mammals that lay EGGS! The only monotremes recognised today are echidnas and the platypus.
- After mating and a gestation time of about 23 days, a female echidna will lay one egg in her pouch for incubation. After 10 days, this egg will hatch and the baby echidna, called a ‘puggle’, will be no more than 2cms long. The puggle develops in its mother’s pouch for the next three months, until they are old enough to be cared for in a burrow.
Due to their widespread range, there is not thought to be any 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 also 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.