THIS PUGGLE may only be several months' old but he's already a social media sensation.
A photo of the baby echidna has been voted the number-one image on national conservation not-for-profit Bush Heritage Australia's Facebook and Instagram pages for 2019.
The puggle - which got a total of 11,000 'likes' was snapped by Bush Heritage field officer Kim Jarvis outside the organisation's Scottsdale Reserve in south-central NSW on the Murribidgee River.
"This young one (about 8 months old) was found scratching about on the edge of the Monaro Highway just outside Scottsdale Reserves front gate," said Kim Jarvis.
"A lot of animals are drawn to the roads edge in search of food during the dryer times and the amount of road kill along the Monaro Hwy is testimony to their fate. We took the liberty of moving this young one back to good feeding grounds well within the reserve.
"This young echidna was seemingly fearless and almost as interested in us as we were him!"
Kim Jarvis has been a wildlife carer for the past decade and said this little one was in great health despite the tough conditions faced by our wildlife this summer. He was left on the banks of Gungoandra Creek eagerly digging into a fresh mound of meat ants.
Also making the Bush Heritage Australia's top-five list of social media stars for 2019 was a very plump and fluffy pink robin (7100 likes), a spotted-tail quoll peaking out of a tree (3500 likes), a well-camoflaged tawny frogmouth and east spiny-tailed gecko (2500 likes).
- The waddling, well-camouflaged short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatusis) is a very peculiar creature. Echidnas and platypuses are monotremes - the only mammals in the world that lay eggs. While the short-beaked echidna is widespread in Australia, long-beaked echidnas are no longer present, but both long and short-beaked can still be found in Papua New Guinea. Echidnas may be shy and infrequently seen, but they're found across most of Australia and hold the title of Australia's most widespread native mammal.
- The pink robin (Petroica rodinogaster) is a small tubby bird native to Australia's south-east. Quieter than other robins, the first indication that a pink robin is nearby is often its characteristic call of 'tik, tik, tik'.
- Spotted-tail quolls (Dasyurus maculatus) are also called tiger quolls. They are the largest native carnivore left on mainland Australia (with the exception of dingoes), and can eat medium-sized birds and mammals, such as possums and rabbits. They are tree-climbing, den-dwelling marsupials. There are four species of quoll: spotted-tailed quoll, western quoll, eastern quoll and northern quoll.
- Tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) are found throughout Australia including Tasmania. South-eastern birds are larger than birds from the north. Tawny frogmouths communicate with a soft, deep and continuous low 'oom, oom, oom' noise. They can also make a loud hissing noise when threatened. Tawny Frogmouths don't belong to the owl family and are more closely related to nightjars.
- Eastern spiny-tailed gecko (Strophurus williamsi) are little reptiles that mainly live in trees, but are also found in spinifex grass. Also called the soft-spined gecko.
About Bush Heritage Australia
Bush Heritage CEO Heather Campbell said the diversity and breadth of conservation wins across the year was heartening to see, and noted that the work was made possible by Bush Heritage's strong community of 35,000 supporters.
"We've achieved a lot around Australia in 2019 - all to better protect our incredible native species and irreplaceable landscapes," she said. "I'm incredibly proud of yet another stellar year for conservation at Bush Heritage and I look forward to continuing our efforts to protect the environment in 2020."
She said last year Bush Heritage capped off a successful 2019 with highlights including: a two million hectare expansion in its land protection impact; forging a new partnership with the Karajarri people in the Kimberley; confirming critically endangered plains-wanderers at two reserves; and hosting a number of innovative science projects on its reserves.
Bush Heritage now protects 11.2 million hectares of land through a vast network of nature reserves and partnerships in every state of Australia and the Northern Territory.
Overall there were 61 science-led projects on Bush Heritage reserves in 2019 helping to improve outcomes for Australia's precious wildlife.
In WA these included ecological monitoring of critically endangered Western grasswrens, capturing data about malleefowl and planting the first of 1 million trees, bushes and shrubs at Eurardy Reserve, Nanda Country.
In Queensland the focus was on roadkill studies, protecting the night parrot and exploring the relationship between the dingo and alwal (the golden-shouldered parrot in Cape York.
In Victoria and NSW the organisation worked on building climate change resilience, platypus spotting and an 'orchid audit'.
In South Australia three critically endangered plains-wanderers were recorded at Boolcoomatta Reserve, Adnyamathanha and Wiljakali Country, the first time the species has been seen there since 2017.
Also at Boolcoomatta, a Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby with joey in pouch was spotted, confirming that breeding had been occurring despite a prolonged drought.
For more information go to bushheritage.org.au