While the birth of any baby is a celebration, Taronga Zoo has three incredibly cute reasons to celebrate with the arrival of three healthy echidna puggles.
Zoo keepers are thrilled to report that the puggles have opened their eyes and begun to develop their characteristic spines in the safety and warmth of their nursery burrows in the echidna breeding facility.
Echidnas are said to be very difficult to breed in human care, but the Taronga team are pleased with the progress of the tiny trio and first-time mothers, Ganyi, Spike and Pitpa.
They're one of only two Australian mammals that lay eggs (the other is the buck-billed platypus). Ten days later the puggle hatches and is carried around by its mother in a pouch-like skin fold for up to two months.
Once the puggle starts to develop spines it's deposited in a specially constructed nursery burrow and the mother returns to feed it every 3-6 days.
"All three mothers are doing an amazing job and tending to their puggles as needed. We have one mum, Spike, who is so attentive that she returns to feed her baby every second day," said Keeper, Suzie Lemon.
The three puggles all hatched within a short period from 16-30 August. The youngest was born to mother Pitpa, who was the last echidna born at Taronga in 1987.
"A great deal of mystery still surrounds this spiny species. Echidnas are quite elusive in the wild, so it's hard to study their natural breeding behaviours," Lemon said.
The names of the three puggles haven't been decided on -- keepers have yet to figure out the sexes of the little cuties. The adorable trio won't start to explore outside their burrows until early next year.