Friday, October 17, 2008

An Echidna

The co driver saw what she said was a "very strange animal" down by the vineyard.
When we got down there to have a look, we saw that it was an echidna or spiny anteater. They are somewhat rare around here and, together with the platypus, are the world's only monotremes, or egg-laying mammals.
They produce young from eggs which are hatched outside their body, in the same way as birds and most reptiles. During the breeding season, a female echidna develops a simple pouch into which she lays a single egg. The egg takes about 10 days to hatch, producing a young animal which measures around 1.45 cm and weighs as little as 380 milligrams. The young echidna is carried around in its mother's pouch for about three months.
By the time the infant leaves the pouch, its spines have started to develop, but it still stays close to its mother and continues to suckle milk through specialised pores in the skin inside her pouch. Although they begin to eat termites and ants soon after leaving the pouch, young echidnas are often not fully weaned until they are several months old.
Adults vary in size, from 35 to 53 cm. Males weigh about 6 kilograms, while females weigh about 4.5 kilograms.
When frightened they curl into a ball, with snout and legs tucked beneath and sharp spines sticking out or they will burrow straight down into soft soil to escape predators.
When he saw us he tried the latter.
Unfortunately he got tangled in the netting and was unable to dig very deep.
Extricating him was a delicate job as those spines are very sharp. Trying to wrap him in just one towel was not that easy either. So by the time I had got him out of the netting and went to find more protection for myself, he had already begun to dig into the ground.
The only way we could get him up was to dig quickly under him with a shovel.

Finally we had him in our grasp.
Apart from the spines and very big claws, they have very cute faces with long noses.
So after a photo shoot, I took him down to the bush and set him free.

Our good deed for the day.

1 comment:

Aleycia G said...

We call those Porcupines!