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Rearing Echidnas

       

 

REARING ECHIDNAS

Baby anteaters are as difficult to rear as baby "duck-bills." So difficult, indeed, that none has . been reared in captivity, from earliest infancy, though many well past the spineless stage may have grown up at the zoo or in the backyard.

Unlike the female platypus, the female echidna possesses a pouch, though it is only a temporary one, being especially developed each breeding season. The one egg is carried and hatched in the pouch, which also serves as a nursery for the young anteater until its spines begin to sprout. Young have been taken from the pouch, but very rarely has one been found that has just "come out." The mother is said to deposit her offspring when the latter's spines become troublesome to her. It is placed under a bush, or in some other hiding place, where it remains until hunger forces it to search for food.

How long the baby stays with its mother we do not know for certain. A specimen in the priceless Burrell collection of monotremes at Canberra was nine days old when taken from the pouch. That spines are developed before the conclusion of 'nursery days may not always be the case. for a baby anteater once found by a farmer was almost smooth-skinned.

Finally, mention may be made of the popularity among aborigines of echidna flesh. It is regarded as a delicacy, and, to ensure a good supply, the old men warn the younger folk not to eat it, for if they do they will become grey prematurely. The simple trick has apparently worked quite well, and the older men have continued to enjoy a plentiful supply of choice echidna flesh.

 

   

 

 

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