Casper the echidna is the first of his kind at Omaha's zoo - Omaha.com
Published Monday, July 15, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 12:38 pm
Casper the echidna is the first of his kind at Omaha's zoo

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium wasn't actively looking for the funny-looking, spiny animal from Australia, but when the St. Louis Zoo asked if Omaha would be interested in having an echidna, zoo officials jumped at the chance.

Casper, a short-beaked echidna, now makes his home in an exhibit with Parma wallabies in the Kingdoms of the Night at the Desert Dome.

The monotreme — a mammal that lays eggs — is believed to be about 42 years old. His first stop straight from the wild was the San Diego Zoo in 1971.

There are only two other species of monotremes, the long-beaked echidna and the duck-billed platypus, said Lindsay North, supervisor of the Desert Dome. And the short-beaked echidna is the only one of the three species in captivity.

Casper is the first echidna to reside at the Omaha zoo. They are rare in North America: Only 19 of them live in 10 zoos.

However, they are not endangered in their home territories of Australia, New Zealand and a small part of New Guinea.

Casper, who weighs 16 pounds, will wedge himself into a crevice in a rock if he gets spooked. It's impossible to move him, North said.

It's an effective defense against predators, because his furry body is covered with tough spines that deter attacks. An echidna also can roll itself into a spiny ball for protection.

After hatching, an infant echidna, called a puggle, gets milk from its mother and lives in her pouch until it is about 6 months old.

The adult echidna has claws on its front and back feet that make it a good climber and digger. It also has an elongated snout that can be up to 18 inches long, no teeth and a specialized tongue for catching insects, which is its diet in the wild. At the zoo, Casper is fed an insect milkshake, North said.

Contact the writer: Carol Bicak

carol.bicak@owh.com    |   402-444-1067

Carol writes about community news, local profiles, the arts and books. She also covers the zoo.

Agreement reached to end dog racing at Bluffs Run at end of 2015
World champion Crawford's promoter working to have title defense at CenturyLink Center
Hail, strong winds, heavy rain hit south-central Nebraska
Police ID. body found near 36th, Seward Streets
Video: Stothert says Crossroads project is 'full speed ahead,' but she won't support bond issue
'Fairly old' human skull found in Mills County
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
Omaha crash victim, 19, had touched many lives
Firefighters take on 'fully engulfed barn fire'
Council Bluffs school board approves new district headquarters
Officials announce effort to lure more veterans to Nebraska
SB 132nd Street lane closed
Shane Osborn grabs several endorsements
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Omaha area may get 1 inch of rain tonight
Gov. Heineman vetoes bill to ease restrictions on nurse practitioners
Nebraska banking and finance director to retire
Waitress who served alcohol to teen before fatal crash gets jail time, probation
Owners of exotic dance bar deny prostitution allegations
More Nebraskans are electing to vote early
A day after Ricketts endorsement, Ted Cruz backs Sasse for Senate
Some city streets remain closed
Nebraska's U.S. Senate candidates stick to familiar topics at Omaha forum
19-year-old killed in one-vehicle crash at 72nd & Shirley
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
The idea that Paul Hogan had studied and then hatched at his mother's table was that older people, rather than moving in with relatives or to an assisted-living center, would much prefer to stay home instead.
Breaking Brad: Nebraska GOP candidates unified against naked squirrels
Some of these Nebraska campaigns are tilting pretty far right. At a recent forum, there was a consensus that we need to ban public dancing and clothe naked squirrels in public parks.
Breaking Brad: Inside the mind of a 99-year-old real estate agent
I saw an article about a 99-year-old real estate agent who's still working. “This house is extra special. It has indoor toilets!”
Breaking Brad: Into the claw machine! Florida kid follows Lincoln kid's lead
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a child climbed inside a claw machine. Hey, Florida kid: Nobody likes a copycat.
Breaking Brad: Even Chuck Hassebrook's throwing mud!
The Nebraska campaigns have turned so ugly, Democrat Chuck Hassebrook lobbed unfounded accusations at an imaginary opponent.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Tokyo Sushi
$5 for $10 or $10 for $20 toward All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Purchase
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »