Zaglossus bartoni 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Monotremata Tachyglossidae

Scientific Name: Zaglossus bartoni
Species Authority: (Thomas, 1907)
Common Name(s):
English Eastern Long-beaked Echidna
Taxonomic Notes: This species is currently divided into includes three subspecies (diamondi; bartoni including clunius; and smeenki), each of which is defined by morphological traits. Ongoing genetic analysis suggests a different phytogeographic pattern (K. Helgen pers. comm. 2015). There is an urgent need for further clarification to identify the primary evolutionary sub-units to be given priority in conservation.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-07-24
Assessor(s): Leary, T., Seri, L., Flannery, T., Wright, D., Hamilton, S., Helgen, K., Singadan, R., Menzies, J., Allison, A., James, R., Aplin, K., Salas, L. & Dickman, C.
Reviewer(s): Johnson, C.N. & Pacifici, M.
Listed as Vulnerable due to a suspected continuing population decline of at least 30% over the last three generations (i.e., the last 45-50 years) based on declines in area of occupancy and actual levels of exploitation due to hunting. Total population size is likely to be low, given naturally low population densities, and may number fewer than 10,000 mature individuals.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species ranges throughout the central mountains of New Guinea (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea) and it also occurs in the Foja Mountains (Indonesia), and the mountains of the Huon Peninsula (Papua New Guinea). Its upper elevational range extends to the highest available peaks. Along the southern side of the central mountains it extends to low elevations close to sea level, though not into seasonally flooded habitat (K. Aplin pers. obs. 2015). On the northern side of the range it does not seem to occur below the lower limit of the montane forest, even in remote areas where adjoining lower elevation hill forests are unvisited or visited only occasionally by hunters (K. Aplin pers. obs. 2015). The reason for this apparent contrast between northern and southern subpopulations is unknown. The elevational range of this species on the southeastern peninsula (subspecies smeenki) also appears to have extended to sea level, at least historically.

The species may be rare or absent altogether in parts of its former range (as demonstrated by fossil evidence from archaeological sites) that now support high human population densities (e.g., large parts of the central highlands between 1,200 m and 2,500 m)
Countries occurrence:
Indonesia; Papua New Guinea
Additional data:
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Upper elevation limit (metres):4150
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Though this species has been hunted to local extinction in the densely populated and more accessible regions of New Guinea, it remains common (at naturally low population densities) in areas that are normally inaccessible. Tim Flannery (pers. comm. 2008) considers that the montane subpopulations in the western half of New Guinea (mainly the central mountains of Papua, Indonesia) are largely extirpated, but that some populations in Papua New Guinea appear to be more secure. It is uncertain when these declines occurred. It is possible that the major declines were associated with human population growth in the late prehistoric period, especially after the introduction of the sweet potato (c. 250 years ago) and dog (earlier but date uncertain) which facilitates hunting. The area of new land in the highlands now being cleared for agriculture is small and in some areas hunting activity may be declining where resource development projects and general regional development are keeping men in closer proximity to settlement. This could be allowing increases in some areas. On the other hand, local declines are occurring where new resource development projects facilitate access by hunters into previously inaccessible areas. In such circumstances, very high levels of predation sometimes occur but the effects are usually localized due to ruggedness of terrain. If these incursions are maintained and unregulated, more widespread and potentially lasting impacts will follow.

Recent work in the remote and essentially unvisited Foya Mountains, Indonesian Papua (Kristofer Helgen pers. comm. 2015) revealed the species to be common there. Similarly, Ken Aplin (pers. comm. 2015) has found the species to be still common in remote montane habitats in Hela, Enga and Western Provinces, based on visible digging signs and testimony of hunters who had recently gained access to some of these areas in the wake of resource development projects. In addition, Aplin has determined by careful interviews with local people (verified by field signs) that the species is widely distributed in the sparsely populated and largely undisturbed hill forest zone in the hinterland of the Gulf of Papua extending west into the Strickland and Fly River catchments.

The status of populations in the southeastern peninsula of Papua New Guinea is unknown.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:10000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species has a large altitudinal range and correspondingly broad ecological scope. Across its entire range it has been recorded from near sea level to 4150 metres a.s.l., although regionally its altitudinal range may be more restricted. It uses habitats including lowland hill forest, lower and upper montane forests, and sub-alpine forests, grasslands and scrub. It has been recorded in secondary habitats. It is probably absent from any habitat subject to seasonal inundation or waterlogging, including the extensive alluvial forests of the Gulf of Papua.

All long-beaked echidnas Zaglossus spp. are large, slow-moving mammals of the forest floor, reaching up to 75 cm in length and weighing 5 to 10 kg. The main food of Z. bartoni is earthworms, obtained by probing soft soil with the long beak aided by strong claws. Animals may dig to a depth of 40 cm in search of worms, leaving a recognisable pit showing the imprint of the forehead and beak. In areas where the species occurs digs are uncommon and scattered, and it seems that the animals have a remarkable ability to precisely locate earthworms (Opiang pers. comm. 2013). Other monotremes use electroreception to locate active prey, and this may be true also of Zaglossus. A study of home ranges of Z. bartoni in the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area (southern Simbu Province Papua New Guinea) found that home-range size of adults varied from approximately 10 to 76 ha, and one juvenile (who may have been dispersing) ranged over an area of 168 ha (Opiang 2009). In this study area, animals were never found active during the day, when they remained in dens usually consisting of short burrows (up to 2.7 m long). Animals also sometimes denned beneath rocks. Juveniles may den in thick vegetation or hollow logs.

The life history of long-beaked echidnas is unknown but is probably similar to that of the short-beaked echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus (Augee et al. 2006), which rears a single young at a time, has a long weaning period (approx 7 months) and slow sexual maturation. The low reproductive potential entailed by these life-history traits is compensated by a long lifespan: there is a record of an animal from the London Zoo which lived for thirty years.
Generation Length (years):16

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The species is commonly hunted by local people, with the aid of dogs, in accessible areas. Hunting is primarily for local consumption with very limited trade.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): All long-beaked echidnas Zaglossus are highly susceptible to human predation with the use of trained hunting dogs able to detect and follow the animals to their daytime retreats, even in densely forested habitat. Except with the aid of dogs, long-beaked echidnas are extremely difficult to locate as they occur at naturally low densities and are nocturnal.

Local hunters in the YUS Conservation Area on the Huon Peninsula report that the meat of Z. bartoni is highly prized, and that it tastes like pork. Local people also report that the species remains common above 3000 m, in areas that are remote from villages and which experience low hunting pressure because they are seldom visited (Gabriel Porolak, unpubl. obs. 2014). A hunting study in the area conducted between 2012 and 2014 recorded only two Z. bartoni kills, one at 2200 m and the other at 3200 m. This low kill rate is probably a reflection of depletion of populations in areas accessible to hunters, and persistence only in less accessible areas (G. Porolak unpubl.).

Habitat degradation and conversion may be significant, but given the ecological breadth displayed by long-beaked echidnas, habitat changes are unlikely to be important as primary threats. However, they probably increase the likelihood of detection and predation, and there is a clear correlation between habitat conversion or degradation and regional extinction of other species of Zaglossus. Forest wildfires at higher elevations during prolonged droughts threaten the upper montane forests inhabited by this species, and this threat could be amplified if climate change causes an increase in the frequency or severity of fires.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed on Appendix II of CITES. It has been recorded from some protected areas, including the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area and the YUS Conservation Area. The taxonomy of this species needs further clarification, especially to resolve the status of currently recognised subspecies. Tighter controls around the early-stage works of development projects are needed to protect against elevated hunting associated with access for development. Field studies are needed to determine the status of populations on the southeast peninsula of Papua New Guinea and in the mountains of Indonesian Papua.

Hunting regulations are needed to protect this species. Further field studies to identify important areas for this species are needed. The taxonomy of this species should be reviewed.

Citation: Leary, T., Seri, L., Flannery, T., Wright, D., Hamilton, S., Helgen, K., Singadan, R., Menzies, J., Allison, A., James, R., Aplin, K., Salas, L. & Dickman, C. 2016. Zaglossus bartoni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T136552A21964496. . Downloaded on 22 January 2017.
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