Attenborough’s Echidna Reprieved

It had been thought that the long-beaked echidna, Zaglossus attenboroughi, named after the television naturalist and living national treasure, was extinct. But following reported recent sightings by local tribespeople in the Cyclops Mountains of Papua New Guinea, the London Zoological Society is sending out an expedition to photograph the elusive animal.

echidna by environmental graffiti, a UK based environmental blog

Very little is known about the species; only one specimen of which has ever been collected over 40 years ago. It is, like other echidna, one of only five monotremes (egg laying mammals), which have been around since the dinosaurs. The Zaglossus attenboroughi is also thought to be nocturnal and to feed mostly off worms.

Evidence that the species may not be extinct was collected by a team from the London Zoological Society’s Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (Edge) Programme. Their aim is to preserve those species that are genetically distinct, having diverged from their closest relations millions of years ago The long-beaked echidna is just one of several species that they are targeting, such as the pygmy hippopotamus and the bumblebee bat.