Here in Australia we often take for granted that we live in a country with unique wildlife. Kangaroos are almost at plague proportions at Rocky Springs, and being spring it is not unusual to see a daddy emu taking his brood of chicks for a walk across the paddock. I have been horse-riding with wombats and canoeing with platypus, but every now and again I am reminded not everyone has seen these creatures. And so when I saw an echidna crossing the track last week I stopped to take some photos.
The echidna (pronounced ee-kid-na) and the platypus (pronounced plat-a-puss) are unique even amongst Australia’s animals. They are the world’s only monotremes meaning they are mammals that lay eggs.
This is what I encountered crossing our track:
Although when I first saw him he was waddling along quite happily, as soon as I approached he went into defense mode and made sure his head and legs were all quickly sheltered below his spiny carapace. Bo reluctantly posed for scale:
Usually by this point the echidna would have dug himself into the soil and the dog would be madly trying to extricate it. I have seen dogs beyond frustration with bleeding tongues and paws as they have tried unsuccessfully to turn over an echidna. Bo didn’t bother. He finds them remarkably boring.
Unluckily for the echidna but luckily for me, the little bloke found himself on our typically rocky ground and was not able to burrow in so I gently upended him only to have him turn into a round, prickly ball. At least he gave me a good look at his hide leg with its massive claw used for digging:
If you use your imagination in this next photo you can make out both his back feet and his long nose (the echidna is similar to an ant-eater), all protected by his spines:
Not wanting to harass him any further I left him in peace, but not before the monotreme had the last word: