Scientists captured images of an elusive echidna named after the British biologist Sir David Attenborough for the first time in over 60 years.
Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna was last recorded in 1961, according to a news release from the University of Oxford.
A team of researchers dispatched 80 camera traps to capture the first-ever video and photos of the animal.
The photos were taken at night, so it might be easy to mistake the animal’s spines for fur in the photo. “Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna has the spines of a hedgehog, the snout of an anteater, and the feet of a mole,” James Kempton, a biologist from the University of Oxford who led the exploration, said in the release.
The echidna — also known as Sir David’s long-beaked echidna or the Cyclops long-beaked echidna — inhabits New Guinea and lives in the Cyclops Mountains in Indonesia.
“The hard work of three-and-ahalf years and the planning that went into the discovery are reflected in this release.
What is the echidna?
Echidnas are part of a group of animals called monotremes, which is the only group of mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young.
Echidnas are one of only five remaining monotreme species in the world. This group also includes the platypus.
The spiny critters are notoriously difficult to find since they’re nocturnal and tend to be shy. The spiny critters also curl up when threatened, and only emerge to , mate in summer.
Since there had not been any sightings in years, scientists were worried that the animal was extinct. The New York Times reported.
The mountainous jungle echidna’s call home
Another complicating factor is that Sir David’s echidna lives in a mountainous jungle region that’s difficult for researchers to explore. The researchers were only able to conduct their research with help from local organizations, according to the news release.
During the course of the study, one researcher contracted malaria, another broke his arm in two places, and a third had a leech latch onto his eye for a day and a half, per the news release.
“I think the landscape is magical, at once enchanting and dangerous, like something out of a Tolkien book,” Kempton said. This expedition also revealed many other fascinating animals. One of them was a species of shrimp never before seen that lived in both trees and the ground.
A catalyst for conservation
The long-beaked echidna is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, according to the news release.
According to the Times, logging and mining may have a part in the decline of tropical forest surrounding the Cyclops Mountains.
“I really hope and believe this will become a catalyst for strong conservation of the Cyclops Mountain Range,” Iain Kobak, a co-founder of Yappenda that organized and trained people for the expedition, told the Times.