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Echidnas are small mammals that are covered with coarse hair and spines, superficially they resemble both the anteaters of South America and other spiny mammals like hedgehogs and porcupines. Their elongated slender snouts function as both mouth and nose. They have very short, strong limbs with large claws and are powerful diggers. Echidnas have a tiny mouth and a toothless jaw. They feed by tearing open soft logs, anthills and the like, and using their long, sticky tongue which protrudes from their snout to collect their prey. The short-beaked echidna, also called the spiny anteater, (Tachyglossus aculeatus) has a diet that consists largely of ants and termites.  The long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus sp.) typically eats worms and insect larvae.

Short-beaked echidnas live throughout Australia, Tasmania, and the lowlands of New Guinea. Long-beaked echidnas live only in the New Guinea Highlands, confined to alpine meadows up to 12,000 feet (3,660 meters) above sea level, and to the humid mountain forests of the New Guinea highlands.
The short-beaked echidna is still plentiful in Australia, and has no special conservation status listing at present. On the other hand, the long-beaked echidna of New Guinea, is faring poorly. Its forest habitat is being cleared for logging, mining, and agriculture, and people hunt the echidna for food with packs of trained dogs. Because of these threats, the long-beaked echidna is listed as endangered.
Now the Papuan Forest Stewards are teaming with Les Stroud, SPOT Satellite Messenger and the Smithsonian Institution to develop a conservation plan for the long-beaked echidna.  Using the SPOT locator beacons, the Papua Forest Stewards will be locating active echidna dens, and transmitting their location to Smithsonian researchers. This will begin to build a database on echidna numbers and density for this region, showcase the ability of Hewa naturalists and encourage researchers to take advantage of this unique research opportunity.  The end result should lead to greater protection and increased population numbers for this species on the edge of extinction.

 

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