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Establishing a Conservation Base for Attenborough's Long-beaked Echidna

Aims

To identify the conservation status and key threats facing Attenborough’s echidna so that appropriate conservation action can be taken.

Image | Attenborough's long beaked echidna | © Hein van Grouw
Location

Cyclops Mountains, Papua, Indonesia

Species Background

Long-beaked echidnas are the highest priority EDGE mammals. They belong to an ancient group of egg-laying mammals (monotremes) that coexisted with the dinosaurs in the Jurassic era some 160 million years ago. Only five species of monotreme survive today – the three species of long-beaked echidna (endemic to New Guinea), the short-beaked echidna (found in New Guinea and Australia) and the duck-billed platypus (Australia). Attenborough’s echidna is the smallest and most threatened of the three long-beaked echidna species. It is known from a single mountain peak in Papua (Indonesian New Guinea) and was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery by EDGE researchers in 2007.

Map & Range
Species Threats

Attenborough’s echidna is endemic to the Cyclops Mountains, an isolated series of summits that extend along the northeastern coast of Papua. It is known from a single specimen collected in 1961. A subsequent expedition in the 1960s to search for other individuals was unsuccessful. However, EDGE expeditions in 2007 and 2010 found convincing evidence – in the form of “nose pokes” and burrows – that the species still exists. Virtually nothing is known about Attenborough’s echidna’s ecology or threats, although it is occasionally caught by local hunters with specially trained dogs.  This lack of knowledge severely hampers the development of appropriate conservation programmes for this Critically Endangered species.

Project actions
  • Undertaking  ecological surveys and interviewing local community members to assess the distribution, density and ecological requirements of Attenborough’s echidna as well as the impact of threats such as hunting and habitat loss
  • Building on the existing cultural significance of the species to generate support for long-beaked echidna conservation at the local, national and international level through holding awareness-raising workshops and producing educational and publicity materials (e.g. videos, blogs and leaflets)
  • Helping local communities to sustainably manage the wildlife and forests upon which they depend through supporting livelihood interventions such as agroforestry and alternative fuel sources
Future Actions
  • Undertaking  ecological surveys and interviewing local community members to assess the distribution, density and ecological requirements of Attenborough’s echidna as well as the impact of threats such as hunting and habitat loss
  • Building on the existing cultural significance of the species to generate support for long-beaked echidna conservation at the local, national and international level through holding awareness-raising workshops and producing educational and publicity materials (e.g. videos, blogs and leaflets)
  • Helping local communities to sustainably manage the wildlife and forests upon which they depend through supporting livelihood interventions such as agroforestry and alternative fuel sources
Project Leader
Photos

A patch of alpine forest in Papua which is home to this special echidna.

View of the Cyclops Mountains amidst the clouds

Papua is also home to a huge variety of other wildlife such as several unique species of flower, such as the red rhododendron.