Once thought to have become extinct as far back as 6,000 years ago, new evidence reviewed at the Eureka Alert website on January 2, 2012, based on an article in the journal Zookeys, indicates that the western long-beaked echidna may still be living but endangered in Australia.
The only known early twentieth century specimen of the western long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus bruijnii) was collected in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia by naturalist John T. Tunney in 1901, on a collecting expedition for the private museum of Lord L. Walter Rothschild in England. The animal was donated to Natural History Museum in London in 1939 after Rothschild’s death and was “rediscovered” by Helgen.
A small and declining population of western long-beaked echidna still exists on the Indonesian portion of the island of New Guinea. The western long-beaked echidna is listed as "Critically Endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.
The search is on for living western long-beaked echidna in Australia. The researchers hope to find living animals to improve the chances of survival of the small New Guinea population through improvement of the gene pool by interbreeding.