It appears to be a cross between a hedgehog and a mole. Scientists have rediscovered a long-lost mammal species in the Indonesian Cyclops Mountains, more than 60 years after it was last sighted. The animal has the spines of a hedgehog, the snout of an anteater, and the feet of a mole.
The Attenborough’s Long-nosed Echidna was named after the British naturalist David Attenborough. A team of scientists from the University of Oxford discovered the creature on the last day of a four-week expedition in the Papua province while reviewing footage from a surveillance camera.
Biologist James Kempton found the images on a memory card from one of the more than 80 remote cameras the team had deployed. The video shows the rare animal walking through the undergrowth.
“There was a great sense of euphoria, and also relief having spent so long in the field with no reward until the very final day,” Kempton said. “I shouted out to my colleagues that were still remaining… and said ‘we found it, we found it’ – I ran in from my desk to the living room and hugged the guys.”
Echidnas as Mediators
According to the researchers, echidnas are nocturnal cave dwellers that are notoriously difficult to find. Only once in 1961 did a Dutch botanist record the species scientifically. Another species of echidna, however, is quite common in Australia and the lowlands of New Guinea.
Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna of Papua is strongly anchored in the local culture. Traditionally, indigenous groups resolve conflicts by sending one party to the forest in search of the animal, while the other group has to search for a spearfish in the sea.
Both animals have always been considered difficult to find, with the expedition often taking decades or a whole generation, according to local tribal elders. Once they are found, they symbolize the end of conflict and the return to harmonious relations.