Wednesday, September 23, 2009


An Echidna

I am not sure I had ever heard of an Echidna before my friend Mary Ellen, from Albuquerque, came for a visit last year. At that point I was still trying to get used to the idea that the grunting I heard in the woods was coming from the harmless Koala, not a wild boar. So when we headed over to Cleland Wildlife Park, we made sure to stop in and check out the Echidna, hoping we would be able to identify one if we were ever lucky enough to come across one in the wild.

An Echidna rooting for lunch.

When I saw it, all I thought was, "Oh, a porcupine," and I wondered if I needed to worry about getting shot with quills. Fortunately, Mary Ellen had read up about them in Lonely Planet Australia and filled me in on a few of the details. I learned some additional facts on the web page for the New South Wales Government Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.
It turns out this animal is one of two egg laying mammals--the other being the Platypus. They are found only in the wild in Australia and New Guinea.
They are also known as Spiny Anteaters, even though they are not related to anteaters, because they enjoy eating termites. They are able to break into termite mounds using their short snout and stout limbs; their front feet are claws which help them dig, while their hind feet point backwards to help push dirt away.

Check out his reversed back foot.

They are a relatively shy animal that, when it encounters with danger, it will either rolls up into a ball--leaving it's sharp spines sticking out-- or dig into the ground.
On Mary Ellen's brief visit, we were never fortunate to come across an Echidna in the wild. Since then, Mark and I have viewed several in their natural habitat.
Our first "wild" sighting was as we were cruising down the Princess Highway at 100 km an hour. Mark was already flipping a U-turn before I could answer his "What the hell was that?" As we pulled up near the Echidna, it quickly rolled into a ball, making it the only shy Echidna that we have ever meet. The others have either been walking and just continue on their way, or looking for food and they can't be bothered to stop. We were lucky enough to come across an Echidna with his nose in an ant pile. His face was completely covered with ants!!!
So, when in Australia keep your nose to the ground and you may be lucky enough to see one of these prickly little guys.

A feral Echidna near Alice Springs.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Maya, wow what an iteresting looking animal. At first glance, I thought the Echidna looked like a porcipine too. So interesting and different looking. I enjoyed reading and learning about them in your post this morning.

    Thanks so much for sharing. Have a great day today!