Scientists Rediscover Attenborough's Long-Beaked Echidna in Unexplored Cyclops Mountains
In a groundbreaking expedition led by Oxford University researchers, an elusive and ancient egg-laying mammal, the Attenborough's long-beaked echidna, has been rediscovered in the remote Cyclops Mountains of Indonesia. Named after Sir David Attenborough, the mammal was last recorded over sixty years ago and was feared to be extinct.
The month-long expedition in partnership with Indonesian NGO YAPPENDA, Cenderawasih University, Papua BBKSDA, and the National Research and Innovation Agency of Indonesia, utilised over 80 trail cameras, multiple ascents of the treacherous mountains, and climbed more than 11,000 metres in life-threatening conditions. Dr. James Kempton, the biologist who led the expedition, expressed the team's excitement upon capturing the first-ever photographs and video footage of the Attenborough echidna
What is a long-beaked echidna?
The long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi) is an egg-laying monotreme, part of the same species as the platypus. It possesses spikes, fur, and a toothless beak, and is one of only five remaining species of monotremes in existence.
The rediscovery of the echidna wasn’t the only remarkable find. Mayr's honeyeater, a bird lost to science since 2008, a new genus of tree-dwelling shrimp, and several dozen insect species were among the discoveries.
Dr. Kempton emphasised the importance of the rediscovery for conservation efforts. Despite being critically endangered, the echidna is not currently a protected species in Indonesia, highlighting the need for increased conservation measures.
The team's enduring legacy includes plans for long-term monitoring of the echidna and continued support for the conservation needs of the Cyclops Mountains. With a fraction of the collected material sorted, scientists anticipate discovering more new species, further enriching our understanding of this unique and biodiverse ecosystem.