Forget the crocodiles and snakes, the zoo made famous by the late Steve Irwin is celebrating its latest arrival – an amazing ‘puggle’.
Echidnas are egg-laying mammals which look like Australia’s version of a very large hedgehog.
But as babies they are born without spines and known as puggles with just 24 ever born in captivity.
So staff at Australia Zoo, in Queensland, were jumping for joy after two of its adult echidnas, Tippy and Pickle, reproduced for the first time.
The puggle hatched in August and has now made its first appearance in public, with doting mother Tippy looking after the baby.
It will remain in her pouch until it is two-months old at which point it starts growing spines, making it uncomfortable for mum.
Kelsey Engle, Australia Zoo curator, said: “Australia Zoo has been actively trying to breed our echidnas for some time, and this puggle is one of only 24 ever born in captivity in the world.
“It hatched in early August, now weighs 128g and is growing steadily. It’s approximately one month after mating that the egg is laid directly into the echidna’s pouch.
“It is carried for ten days before the puggle hatches with no hair or spines, without pigment and blind.
“The puggle then remains snug in the pouch until it is about two months old, when spine development makes it too uncomfortable for mum to keep carrying the baby around.
“Echidnas do not have nipples but instead excrete milk from a gland in their pouch – they are truly unique.”
When the spines become too much, Tippy will then find a safe spot for the puggle, whose gender is yet to be announced.
This will probably be under a log or rock, and will act as a nursery, with Tippy returning every one to three days to feed it.
Echidnas are found in Australia and New Guinea and, despite having no teeth, live on a very specific diet of termites, ants and other soil invertebrates such as beetle larvae.
When fully grown, echidnas measure 30-53 cm long with males weighing about 6kg and
females about 4.5kg.
They have been known to live for as long as 16 years in the wild, but generally their lifespan is thought to be less than ten years.
The funny-looking creatures are known as monotremes with the platypus the only other egg-laying mammal.
Keep up to date with the puggle’s development at http://www.australiazoo.com.au