Thanks for signing up to take part in the platy-protect!
By taking part you’ll help researchers understand more about the elusive platypus and how we can better protect them.
This toolkit contains all the information you need to go out looking for a platypus, and what to do if you do (or don’t) spot one. It also covers how to host a survey event with friends, family or people in your local community, to increase your chances of spotting a platypus and raise much-needed awareness of this incredible creature.
Click on the heading for each section to read more. Or prefer the toolkit as a PDF? Click here to download it.
Header photo: Douglas Gimesy
Use the platy-project map to help you choose a strategic location to look for platypuses.
The map is colour-coded by platypus sightings:
Make sure the area is accessible. Look for places that you can get to by a car or just a short walk.
Don’t visit places on private property unless you know the owner and have their permission.
Platypuses are active mainly at night, so for most of the year the best times to see them are the hour after dawn or the hour just before dusk, though you can still get lucky during the day.
In winter and early spring they’re more active during the day too, as the colder weather means they need more food so have to spend more time finding it. This is handy for humans who are hoping to see one.
Platypuses need healthy waterways to live in. Look out for sections of creeks and rivers with a good bit of bush along the banks — think trees, shrubs, ferns — with good, flowing water and places for platypuses to duck and dive as they search for tucker among rocks and logs. Find a spot where the water is calm, so you can see any ripples the animals might make.
So you’ve chosen the time of day and place you’re going to search in, now it’s time to head out to see if you can spot a platypus.
Before you head out, gather your gear:
You’re at the location, now it’s time to keep an eye out.
There’s no mistaking a platypus up close — the duck-bill, webbed feet and fur coat give them away — but those features are harder to make out from a distance.
Keep an eye out for ripples in the water — a sign that a platypus might be out and about. Look for well-formed ‘bulls-eye’ ripples or a narrow v-shaped wake in the water, both signature platypus ripples.
Look for features that distinguish a platypus from rakali, or native water-rat. Both will float low in the water with sometimes only their head and body visible. If you can see their tail, you’ll notice rakali have a long tail with a white tip, while a platypus has a short, flat, rounded tail.
Look for the tell-tale movements. A platypus on the move will tend to travel along the surface of the water, diving for about a minute and then resurfacing in the same spot. A rakali will dive and swim below the water, resurfacing further away.
Being still and quiet will greatly improve your chances of seeing a platypus. See what other wildlife you can observe while you wait for a platypus to come along.
Platypus are elusive animals. Be patient when trying to spot one and don’t make too much noise, or you could spook them!
Remember to search safely:
While you’re out looking for a platypus, it’s important to record what you see so you can share this information with platypus researchers and scientists.
Aim to get a photo. A photo captured on a phone, even at a distance, is great. Good gear like a DSLR camera or long-lens can help too.
It’s also useful to make notes of things you notice, including:
If your phone has location settings in the camera app (most do by default) this will be captured automatically. Otherwise you can use a phone or GPS to take down the location. At a pinch you can estimate it after.
If you were lucky enough to see a platypus and get a photo you can upload your photos to social media using the hashtag #PlatyProject
We’d love to hear about your platypus encounters! If you’ve seen one send an email to [email protected]
That’s still really helpful information that contributes to platypus science! Visit https://platy-project.acf.org.au/, select ‘record a sighting’ and then select 'zero platypus' to record an attempted sighting. We’d also love to hear about your adventure by emailing [email protected]. You can upload photos of other plants and animals to a public and free community science app like iNaturalist.
Follow the tips in this toolkit under “How to spot a platypus” to choose a strategic location for your survey.
When hosting a group event, choose a location that can cater for more people (e.g. enough parking spaces for more cars) and with an accessible stretch of river long enough that a group of people can station themselves at intervals along it.
If you can, check out the site before settling on it to ensure its suitability for the group and its accessibility.
Choose a time at dawn or dusk to increase your chances of seeing a platypus, or if that’s difficult you can try your luck at a different time of day.
Host your event on the platy-project website so that people in your community can RSVP and join in! It’s an easy way to keep track of RSVPs and to connect with new people in your area.
Visit* http://platy-project.acf.org.au and select ‘new event’, then:
*If you are part of an ACF Community group and already create events on SupporterBase – create your event in SupporterBase and email the event link to [email protected], and we can add it to the platy-project map for you.
Arriving at the location
Brief participants on how to search for a platypus
Encourage people to spread themselves out at intervals along the waterway to have the best chance of seeing a platypus, and allow between 30 minutes to an hour for people to survey.
Share what you’ve seen
Once everyone meets back at home-base, go around and ask people to share what they saw, even if they didn’t get to see a platypus. Double check everyone has good records of what they saw.
This is the perfect time to bust out a platy-picnic.
Wrap and follow up