Tristan inspects our first echidna
As we hiked down the Central Gully trail, after climbing to the top, Tristan shouted, “An echidna!”
And there, behind some bushes at he side of the trail, we saw our first wild echidna. We’d seen them in the Melbourne zoo, so we knew what to look for, but this was our first glimpse of one in the wild.
I immediately jumped off the trail and scrambled up behind the bush. While I was doing this, the echidna scrambled from the bush toward a very large boulder with what looked like a set of holes that could be its den. I interspersed myself between the echidna and the rocks and asked Tristan to go fetch our camera.
The echidna didn’t seem to want to stay put until Tristan could return with the camera, so I crawled into the bush and put my hand on the echidna, which immediately started to burrow into the ground below it and curled itself up into a ball, with no appendages exposed and only some very stiff and prickly spines.
Nonetheless, so long as I held my hand on top of it, the echidna gave up trying to run away and stayed put. After an amazingly short time, Tristan returned with the camera.
“I ran the whole way there and back,” he panted.
“Want to touch it?” I asked.
Tristan did want to feel the spines of our novel find, and I grabbed the camera to take photos.
It wasn’t particularly cooperative, and either tried to run away, or if we touched it, burrowed most of itself deeper into the ground. I wanted a photo from the side, of it walking, but it immediately headed for the rock pile as soon as one of us wasn’t holding it.
Our second echidna was in the bushes beside the trail by the Organ Pipes, and Tristan also spied that one. Again, I grabbed for the animal while Tristan ran for our camera (we generally had it in the pack at the base of the cliff we climbed). When he returned, I’d lured it a little more into the open. I tried to pick it up, but it’s too spiny and it can control the spines to point at whatever spot we touch it.
They run amazingly quickly considering their very short legs. I’d never have expected them to move as fast as they do. They also blend well with the native vegetation and dirt. Only Tristan’s eagle eye caught them out – I spoke to many other climbers, none of whom saw a single echidna during their entire trip.