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Sir David's long-beaked echidna

Sir David’s long-beaked echidna, named after famed British naturalist and narrator Sir David Attenborough, is a confirmed species known from only one specimen. It was found in 1961 at Mt. Berg Rara in the Cyclops Mountains, directly north of Lake Sentani in northeastern West Papua. The specimen was unusually large, and would have weighed about 13-17 pounds in life, and is notable for having a distinctly long, straight bill, fewer spines, and dark fur. Since it hasn’t had an “official” sighting in 59 years, it is usually considered extinct.

Jonathan Baillie, zoologist and vice president of science and exploration at National Geographic, started an expedition to search for Sir David's long-beaked echidna in 2007. One of his witnesses he interviewed was a man named Paulus Ormuseray, who claimed to have seen a Sir David's long-beaked echidna behind Yongsu Village in 1980. His description was practically identical to the 1961 specimen, and is also notable, as no other echidna species live in the area. Baillie interviewed four other witnesses, most recently from a sighting in 2005, by a man named Ben, who snared and ate one. Baillie attempted to see if Ben was a credible witness and asked him the question "if the echidna’s teeth were sharp," and he correctly answered that it didn’t have any. 

Later some hunters showed Baillie echidna feeding holes in a remote river, which are left when echidnas probe their beak into the ground, leaving cone-shaped holes in the soil or leaf litter. Although the Cyclops mountains are at risk from deforestation, there are still hundreds of kilometres of untouched, mountainous rainforest that is uncharted.

The Sir David's long-beaked echidna holotype
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