A tiny echidna is receiving some lifesaving tender loving care this week after being rescued from a trail in western Australia.
The puggle, as baby echidnas are called, is being nursed by doctors at the Taronga Wildlife Hospital outside Sydney, Australia.
An almost "illogical mammal," according to the San Diego Zoo, echidnas (also known as spiny anteaters) have remained unchanged since prehistoric times. They are native to Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. What really sets the odd looking creatures apart, however, is the fact that they lay eggs, a trait shared with only one other mammal: the duck-billed platypus.
Nicknamed "Beau" by its caregivers, the puggle was about 30 days old when it reached its temporary new home, according to a blog post on Taronga's website. At that age, Beau should have been nestled safely in its mother's pouch, according to the San Diego Zoo. After about 50 days, the puggle is placed in a burrow, where it is feed by its mother until it can venture out on its own at 7 months.
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Annabelle, a Taronga vet nurse, will be the puggle's surrogate mom for its duration at the wildlife hospital. But the unique feeding habits of echidnas present unique problems for their human caregivers.
Mother echidnas don't have nipples, so offspring instead lap up milk from glands on the mother's back. Annabelle therefore has to feed Beau from the palm of her hand, where it laps the milk up like a mini vacuum cleaner, according to the post.
The baby's sex is unknown -- and will be for months.
Beau's scientific name is Tachyglossus aculeatus, or short-beaked echidna.
The puggle may be safe and sound, but Beau's cousins, long-beaked echidnas, which are found only in New Guinea, are a critically endangered species, according to the IUCN Red List. These echidnas have been hunted to local extinction in more densely populated regions of New Guinea and are also threatened by a loss of habitat.