for National Geographic News
One of the world's rarest creatures, Attenborough's long-beaked echidna, appears to be alive and well, conservationists say. It is also reportedly quite delicious.
The animal, native to the island of New Guinea in the South Pacific, was feared to be extinct (see a map of Papua New Guinea).
But scientists' concerns were allayed—somewhat—when hunters on the island reported that they had seen the echidna and "the meat was very greasy and extremely tasty."
"It sounded like they hadn't eaten too many, and it was just wonderful news to hear they were still alive," said Jonathan Baillie, a conservationist with the Zoological Society of London, who led the expedition to find the animal.
Attenborough's long-beaked echidna, a primitive, egg-laying, spiny mammal related to the platypus, is so rare that no scientist has ever seen one alive.
Named in honour of the naturalist Sir David Attenborough, the echidna is thought to live on only one mountain peak in New Guinea's Cyclops Mountains.
Just one specimen exists, which was found in 1961 and is now kept in a museum in the Netherlands.
Baillie said his expectations of finding the animal were fairly low.
"We were nervous that it would have disappeared," he said.
In addition to collecting reports of sightings from seven villagers in the area—the most recent in 2005—Baillie and his colleagues came across fresh feeding holes created by the echidna.
"We saw a number of echidna feeding holes, or 'nose pokes,'" Baillie said.
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