Love is in the air for Kangaroo Island's echidnas

A Kangaroo Island echidna. Photo Pelican Lagoon Research and Wildlife Centre
A Kangaroo Island echidna. Photo Pelican Lagoon Research and Wildlife Centre

Travellers are always welcome on Kangaroo Island but even more so now that they can help track the Island's spiky residents.

Locals can help too as anyone can use the new Echidna CSI reporting app, which can be downloaded free, to record information and share photos of echidna activity from across the Island.

July is an active time for much of the Island's wildlife and love is in the air as it's the peak of echidna breeding season.

You never know when you will find one.

Dr Peggy Rismiller at Pelican Lagoon Research and Wildlife Centre is receiving daily updates from travellers using the app.

"The Echidna Conservation Science Initiative (Echidna CSI) combines 30 years of Echidna Watch data with new real time observations," Dr. Peggy said.

"The Island still has a few communication "black holes" but once a device is back in range, the data is received and added to our nation wide data base."

Also receiving the data is Dr Frank Grutzner from the University of Adelaide Environment Institute and Dr Peggy praised his and his students efforts.

"When we began the original Echidna Watch in the early 1990s every thing was done on paper," she said.

"We dreamed of wireless communication and through the ingenuity of students and staff from the University of Adelaide the planet's longest surviving mammal joined the digital age.

"Community awareness and participation has always helped with major break throughs in echidna research."

A Kangaroo Island echidna. Photo Pelican Lagoon Research and Wildlife Centre

A Kangaroo Island echidna. Photo Pelican Lagoon Research and Wildlife Centre

In 1884 Albert Molineux, a visiting agriculturist collected echidnas from the American River area.

And it was these two echidnas that lead to the world learning echidnas were egg laying mammals, she said.

"On Kangaroo Island, echidna science continues at what we call 'echidna time'," Dr Peggy said.

"Nothing happens quickly. It took nearly 20 years of field research and new technology to learn at what age echidnas become sexual mature. After 15 years of close monitoring we actually observed how an egg gets into the pseudo-pouch. "

"More years of work were needed before we learned that the hatchling echidna, called a puggle, breathes through skin respiration for the first three days of life.

"It takes eight newly hatch echidnas to weigh as much as a single Australian five cent coin."

"Echidnas can be exasperatingly elusive. There is no specific time or place to guarantee an echidna sighting...it is just being at the right place at the right time.

"There are a lot of spectacular plants and animals on the Island, but visitors cannot be certain of seeing an echidna on their first trip. This has gained the echidna the status of our island incentive species."

Holiday travellers are now breaking free from "cabin fever" and exploring Kangaroo Island.

"Digital communication has become more reliable across the island, so we encourage visitors to use the Echidna CSI app to record and share their 'echidna moments' with us and the world," she said.

Accidents do happen and sightings from road incidents should also be recorded and reported.

"We still have a lot to learn about echidnas. Samples collected from fatalities go to The University of Adelaide genetics lab for continuing research," she said.

Please report fresh echidna vehicle strikes with date and location to Dr. Peggy Rismiller at 8553 7174 or contact the KI Wildlife Network on 0437 522 246.

Fresh specimens are vital to the research and will be collected as soon as possible.

During working hours fresh specimens can be delivered to the Department of Environment and Water (DEW) office at 37 Dauncey Street, Kingscote, from where they will be collected and taken to University of Adelaide genetics lab.

A Kangaroo Island echidna. Photo Pelican Lagoon Research and Wildlife Centre

A Kangaroo Island echidna. Photo Pelican Lagoon Research and Wildlife Centre

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