A type of mammal named after David Attenborough, previously thought to be extinct, has been found again.
Researchers have recently found a species of mammal that had been previously lost. It is described as having hedgehog-like spines, an anteater-like snout, and mole-like feet. The discovery was made in Indonesia’s Cyclops Mountains, more than six decades after its last sighting.
The long-beaked echidna, named in honor of British naturalist David Attenborough, was captured on camera for the first time since 1961 during a four-week expedition led by scientists from Oxford University in June and July.
After coming down from the mountains during his trip, biologist James Kempton discovered pictures of a tiny animal moving through the undergrowth of the forest on the final memory card he retrieved from over 80 remote cameras.
“He expressed feeling a strong sense of joy and release after spending a long time in the field with no results until the very last day,” he shared, recalling the moment he viewed the footage with his partners from the Indonesian conservation group Yappenda.
“I exclaimed to my remaining colleagues, ‘We’ve found it, we’ve found it!’ and then rushed from my desk to the living room to embrace them.”
The name “echidna” is also used for a mythical creature in Greek mythology that is part woman and part serpent. The team described echidnas as timid, nocturnal animals that live in burrows and are famously elusive.
Kempton stated that the unique appearance of this animal is due to its classification as a monotreme, a group of egg-laying mammals that diverged from the rest of the mammal family approximately 200 million years ago.
This particular species was first documented by a Dutch botanist in 1961. Another type of echidna can be found in various parts of Australia and lowland New Guinea.
Kempton and his team successfully endured an earthquake, malaria, and even a leech attached to an eyeball during their journey. They collaborated with the Yongsu Sapari village in order to navigate and explore the isolated landscape of northeastern Papua.
According to elders from Yongsu Sapari and referenced by the university, the echidna holds significance in the local culture. One tradition involves resolving conflicts by sending one party to search for the mammal in the forest while the other searches for a marlin in the ocean.
The search for both creatures was challenging and could sometimes take up to several decades or a full generation. However, once they were discovered, they represented the resolution of conflict and the restoration of peace and harmony.