THE emergence of an Echidna puggle from its burrow after 230 days is being celebrated as a success by zookeepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
A puggle doesn't usually emerge from the burrow until they are around 230 days old, when they become less dependent on their mothers and start trying solid foods.
Since it was born the puggle has remained hidden underground.
The Echidna puggle has been named Dhulu (pronounced da-hoo-loo) which is a jag-spear (spear with little spikes on the end) in Wiradjuri language.
It is currently unknown if the puggle is a female or a male.
"Determining the sex of the puggle is challenging," Keeper Denyell Woodhouse said.
A female will only develop a pouch at breeding times, and whilst males have spurs on their back legs, puggles all have these in a small form at this stage of their development."
The celebration of success is due to the fact that echidnas are very difficult to breed, with only a few zoological institutions having achieved this.
"Echidnas don't breed until they are four years old of age.
"Whilst we are still learning and working out the key signs to look out for to know when it's breeding time, we are all extremely pleased with this result.
"What makes it challenging is that Echidnas spend a lot of time in burrows, especially in the cooler months, but it is believed that good weight and appropriate burrow sites are key for breeding success."
This is the first offspring for Echidna's Bristle and Kiah, so it heralds a new genetic line for the zoo.
"All of the Keepers who work with the Echidnas are very excited by this result. We have taken a very new approach to breeding Echidnas here, which has really paid off. We hope to back up again next year and continue the breeding success."
The puggle is starting to venture out of the burrow more consistently now and can often be spotted alongside mum around the middle of the day at feeding time.
"It has all its quills but is significantly smaller than its mother. Echidnas are not fully grown until they are approximately four years old or around four kilograms," Ms Woodhouse said.
Echidnas are monotremes so they don't actually have a gestation period. When they are born, they are actually laid as an egg.
The egg is laid directly into mum's pouch which is folds of skin that form during breeding season.
Once the puggle hatches the mother doesn't have nipples like all other mammals but instead secretes milk from patches on its stomach, which the puggle laps up using its tongue.
Have you signed up for more local and regional news?
Did you know The Daily Liberal is now offering breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up-to-date with all the local and regional news.