Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Echidna CSI – your reports needed

Posted on 17 December, 2019 by Ivan

We received a thought-provoking message from the Echidna ‘Conservation Science Initiative’ (CSI) project, run by researchers at the University of Adelaide, South Australia. They seek reports and photographs of the lovely Echidnas in our region. They’ve been studying the molecular biology of monotremes (both echidna and platypus), the world’s oldest mammals, and discovered some incredible surprises about their biology. For some fun facts about monotremes – click here.

Now they are using their knowledge and molecular tools to help with echidna conservation – but they need your help! Here is an outline of what the Echidna ‘Conservation Science Initiative’ is researching and how you can assist.

We want to learn more about echidnas! Where they are, what they are doing and if they are healthy – so we can work towards their conservation.

How can you help? By taking photos and collecting scats (i.e., poo). Although an iconic native Australian animal, we do not know much about echidnas’ wild populations, as they are extremely hard to find (when you’re actually looking for them). However, we know that there are many of you that have seen wild echidnas (sometimes even in your own backyard!) and taken photos or videos of them. With your help and photo taking abilities, we can start filling in the gaps about wild echidnas in Australia.

What we also need help with is collecting echidna scats.

Why? Because we can get a lot of information about echidnas through the molecules in their scats. We can get out DNA and hormones to tell us who that echidna is, if it’s healthy, stressed or reproductively active. And so we can learn more about these wild populations without having to track or capture any of these animals.

The EchidnaCSI app for smartphones is now available for new echidna sightings and scat collecting!

What do I do if I see an echidna? 
Open the app, go to the ‘submit’ page and select ‘record an echidna sighting’. Your camera will pop up so you can take a photo. Once you have taken a photo select ‘use photo’. A new page will open where we ask you some questions about the echidna, e.g., if it was alive or dead, walking or digging, a juvenile or adult, and a section for you to add any interesting comments if you wish. Then you submit your recording! We will be sent the photo with the GPS location and the information about that echidna.

What do I do if I find an echidna scat? 
Open the app, go to the ‘submit’ page and select ‘collect specimen’. Your camera will pop up so you can take a photo of the scat first. We need this photo so we can get its GPS location to match the sample. A new page will appear asking you to get an envelope or bag and to write the date, time and your name on it. This is so we can identify which submission it belongs to once we receive it. The next page will instruct you to place the scat in the envelope/bag, trying not to touch it. We then give you information on how to send us your collection.

For more information and to download the app – click here

Echidnas forage at the ground surface, waddling along slowly, sweeping their pointed snout across the ground like a metal detector (Photo: Prof. Frank Grützner, University of Adelaide)

2 responses to “Echidna CSI – your reports needed”

  1. Barry Murfett says:

    A silly question, how do I recognise an echidna scat to the other ones that appear in my yard?

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