Western Long-beaked Echidna
(Zaglossus bruijnii)
The western long-beaked echidna is one of the most mysterious mammals on earth. It is one of only five remaining monotreme species, an ancient clade of mammals that includes two other long-beaked echidna species, along with the short-beaked echidna and duck-billed platypus. Like all mammals, monotremes have fur and produce milk to nourish their young, but uniquely, these mammals lay eggs rather than giving birth to live young. Occurring only in the far west of the island of New Guinea, the poorly-known western long-beaked echidna may be on the verge of extinction. It is threatened by hunting and habitat loss, resulting from mining, agriculture and logging.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Research into the distribution, ecology and threats facing this little-known species are urgently needed so that appropriate conservation actions can be taken.
Indonesia, Irian Jaya
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Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Monotremata
Family: Tachyglossidae
The western long-beaked echidna is one of the few remaining extant species belonging to an ancient clade of egg-laying mammals, the monotremes, a group that also includes the short-beaked echidna and duck-billed platypus. Fossil evidence indicates that this group of mammals has changed very little during the last 100 million years, although both the echidnas and the platypus are highly specialised for different lifestyles. Recent genetic studies and a revision of the fossil record suggest that the echidna-platypus divergence occurred as a result of a recent split 19-48 million years ago. Fossil monotremes from the Pleistocene Epoch (which began 1.8 million years ago) are very similar to the living species.
Head and body length: 450-775 mm
Weight: 5-10 kg
The most distinguishing feature of long-beaked echidnas is their long snouts, which curve downwards and account for two-thirds of the length of the head. They have no teeth; instead their tongues are covered in spikes (teeth-like projections), which are very effective in hooking prey and drawing it into the mouth. They have compact, muscular bodies, with strong limbs and claws for digging. Their back and sides are covered with spines, which vary in colour from white through to dark grey or black. The body is also covered in brownish-black hairs, which sometimes hide the spines. In this species, males are larger than females and have spurs on the inside of the hind limbs, near the foot.

There is considerable variation in size and colour between the members of this genus, and even within each species, which sometimes makes identification difficult. Z. bruijni is distinguished by the possession of three claws on the forefeet and hindfeet, whereas there are five claws on the forefeet of Z. bartoni and Z. attenboroughi.
Little is known of the ecology of the western long-beaked echidna. It is thought to be largely nocturnal, spending the day resting in shallow burrows or hollow logs, and foraging amongst the forest litter at night for food. The diet consists almost exclusively of earthworms, although individuals may occasionally eat termites, insect larvae and ants.
Ranges from tropical hill forests to upper montane forests.
Largely restricted to the Vogelkop Peninsula, in the far west of the island of New Guinea (West Papua Province, Indonesia). It has also been recorded from the island of Salawati, Indonesia, although it is possibly extinct there now. The species may also be present on the Indonesian islands of Batanta and Waigeo. It ranges from near sea level to 2,500 m.
Population Estimate
Unknown, although thought to be rare.
Population Trend
Decreasing in areas where it interacts with humans.
Classified as Critically Endangered (CR A2acd) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Traditional hunting is the main reason for the species' decline. The western long-beaked echidna is a highly prized game species and is hunted for food by local people with trained dogs. The species is further threatened by habitat loss and degradation resulting from farming, logging and mining. These activities are believed to have driven echidna populations up into the mountains where there is less disturbance. As a result, the species’ is now thought to occur in a series of small, isolated populations. 
Conservation Underway
It is listed on Appendix II of CITES and has been recorded from within a national park. However, there are currently no targeted conservation measures in place for the western long-beaked echidna.
Conservation Proposed
Research into the distribution, ecology and threats facing this little-known species are urgently needed so that appropriate conservation actions can be taken. These are likely to include habitat protection, regular monitoring and community awareness programmes.
Flannery, T. 1990. Mammals of New Guinea. Robert Brown & Associates Ltd, Queensland.

Flannery, T. F. and Groves, C. P. 1998. A revision of the genus Zaglossus (Monotremata, Tachyglossidae), with description of new species and subspecies. Mammalia 62(3): 367-396

Kennedy, M. (ed.). 1992. Australasian Marsupials and Monotremes: An Action Plan for their Conservation. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Leary, T., Seri, L., Flannery, T., Wright, D., Hamilton, S., Helgen, K., Singadan, R., Menzies, J., Allison, A., James, R., Aplin, K., Salas, L. & Dickman, C. 2008. Zaglossus bruijnii. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 17 February 2010.

Nowak, R. M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

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