Ina the orphaned echidna is going from strength to strength after a tough start to life.
Carly Humphrys, mammal keeper at Alice Springs Desert Park, said the puggle had hatched not long before being discovered at Imanpa, a remote community 200 kilometres south of the town.
“She was a tiny little thing that sat in the palm of your hand and she only weighed 112 grams — her eyes were closed, no spines, completely pink,” Ms Humphrys said.
Now, Ina tips the scales at 2.6 kilograms.
“Today is an exciting day. We have actually moved our echidna up into the nocturnal house for display,” Ms Humphrys said.
“That way we can monitor her a lot more closely.”
The puggle’s chances of surviving were low, which was why the keepers were hesitant to name Ina in her early stages of life.
The zookeepers refer to Ina as a female despite not knowing for certain; they are hesitant to put the 10-month-old monotreme under anaesthetic to determine her sex at this time.
Ina was temporarily named Puggly when she didn’t eat for the first 10 days at the desert park.
“[Also] making sure you get enough body fat on the echidna during the weaning stage. Otherwise, you could end up with problems like pneumonia.”
Ms Humphrys and her team were doing everything they could to ensure the survival of the puggle.
“To get her through to the stage that she is now, where she’s fully weaned and now on display in our nocturnal house is an amazing achievement.”
Ms Humphrys said that hand-raising an echidna had been the highlight of her career.
“It’s not something you get to do often in your zookeeping career,” she said.
Ms Humphrys said she learnt a lot about herself during the process.
“It’s been the challenge of it all,” she said.
“I never realised how much patience I had to be able to spend [time] with this puggle.”