Platypus

New Sanctuary for Platypuses

In Australia, the 2019-2020 bushfires have affected many animals including the very unusual-looking Platypus. However, the Australian state of New South Wales and the Taronga Conservation Society have plans to establish a new platypus sanctuary.

Pollution, dams, land development, climate change, trapping, netting, fire, and drought are all known to have affected the platypus. Also due to man, their numbers have dropped at least thirty percent in the last few centuries. The planned New South Wales, Australia sanctuary will house up to 65 members, and will supply them with burrows and ponds after it opens in 2022.

Diet, Habitat and Behaviour

Platypuses have beaver-like tails, webbed feet, prey-sensing snouts, and folds on the top of their bills. Strangely the ridge hides their eyes and ears in murky waters, so platypuses find meals using electric receptors in their beaks. These bills then can sense movement in their prey due to electrical activity. Platypuses live in rivers, and streams, and are known to spend half their time foraging for grubs, worms, insects and shellfish.

Platypuses are among only two mammals that do not have live young. Along with the echidna, (spiny anteaters), they are the only mammals that lay eggs. After laying approximately two eggs, a female platypus curls up around them to keep the eggs warm. A platypus’ body temperature is about 5°C (9°F) less than most mammals, (about 37 °C, or 99 °F). Platypus eggs hatch after 10 days, and mothers raise until they are mature at about four months. Platypus’ only reproduce at about two years of age, and can live to be about ten.

Platypuses are found along the eastern coast in the Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales South Australia areas, in Australia, and in Tasmania. Unfortunately, however, they are thought to be getting scarcer in Southern Australia.

Platypus

Conservation and Zoos

Platypuses, are shy and easily spooked, and can only be seen late in the evening, at night, or in the early morning — making them difficult for researchers to study. They are also hard to keep in captivity, and few have bred in zoos. Most notably, babies have been born in the Melbourne Healesville Sanctuary, and at the Taronga Zoo.

Other platypuses can be seen at the Walkabout Creek Wildlife Centre, the Australian Platypus Park, the Lone Pine Centre in Brisbane, David Fleay Wildlife Park, the Sydney Wild Life Centre, Australian Reptile Park, and the Warrawong Wildlife Centre in Adelaide Hills. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is the only centre outside of Australia where platypuses are found in captivity.

How to protect Platypus Habitat

Since platypus live in burrows usually found just above the water line in streams and rivers; erosion is a serious concern. Weeds along the water, considered to be pests–are often removed–resulting in destruction of platypus habitat. Experts, who think that stream-side willow trees produce too many leaves, and not many of the larger branches that platypus like; recommend willows be removed, and other vegetation planted in its place. Dams should be supplied with graduated fish ladders, that will allow fish and platypuses a way to return to their former habitats. But — if fish ladders are not feasible — large amounts of vegetation, (at least approximately 30 meters or yards wide along the shore), should be planted for skittish platypuses to hide in, so that they can get around dams.

ICUN Status

Platypuses are protected by the EPBC Act in Australia. And the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, has classified the platypus are ‘near threatened’. The ICUN noted that more research needs to be done, in November 2020, and are considering upgrading the status of platypuses to the vulnerable, threatened species level.

Many, however, don’t see the platypus being on the road to extinction. Yet there still are scientists, like Dr Gilad Bino, at the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science, who argue that platypuses will lose 40 per cent of their current habitats in the future; due to runaway, man-made development.  

Sources

CTV News. “Climate disasters prompt Australia’s first platypus refuge”  2021. https://www.ctvnews.ca/climate-and-environment/climate-disasters-prompt-australia-s-first-platypus-refuge-1.5333213

The State of Queensland. (Department of Environment and Science). “Platypus”29 April 2016. https://environment.des.qld.gov.au/wildlife/animals/a-z/platypus

Australian Conservation Foundation. “Let’s protect the platypus” 2021 https://www.acf.org.au/platypus

Australian Conservation Foundation. “Let’s protect the platypus” 2021 https://www.acf.org.au/platypus

National Geographic Partners, LLC. “The silent decline of the platypus, Australia’s beloved oddity”August 29, 2019 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/common-platypus-disappearing-australia

University of New South Wales. “Platypus on brink of extinction.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 January 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200121112922.htm>.

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources“Platypus”IUCN 2021. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2020-3. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/40488/21964009

BBC News “Australia’s first ever platypus sanctuary” 2021. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/56264827

Wikipedia “Platypus” February 21, 2021 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platypus

BBC News “Australia’s first ever platypus sanctuary” 2021. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/56264827

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