Habitat destruction and climate change are taking a toll on one of our most iconic animals.

To better understand the plight of the platypus, ACF is working with researchers who’ve been monitoring them for decades.

They say the more they learn, the more they believe platypuses should be listed as ‘threatened’.

A close-up image of a platypus's fin

A close-up image of a platypus's tail

A close-up image of a platypus's bill

"No-one has really considered platypuses under threat until recently," says Josh Griffiths, a biologist based with EnviroDNA, which is part of Cesar in Melbourne.

Very little research has been done on population status in the past. And because historical data on platypuses is very poor it's really difficult to identify and quantify their decline.

"Yet many populations are likely to have been declining for more than 50 years due to land clearing, urbanisation, changes to river flows and more," explains Josh.

"And long-term monitoring programs have identified widespread declines in the greater Melbourne area and western Victoria."

Ecologist Josh Griffiths holding a platypus

Why are numbers dropping?

The causes of platypus decline are many. We’ve had major prolonged drought and warming regions, which deplete rivers and streams.

Horrific summer bushfires turned some of the best platypus habitat into rivers of sludge and ash.

Threats on many fronts

Before the Black Summer fires, researchers knew platypuses were in trouble along many parts of the east coast but felt comforted they had safe havens in remote bush settings. The fires changed this.

"These areas were previously a stronghold for platypuses," explains Josh, referring to East Gippsland and South Coast NSW, where his research is concentrated.

"The areas that burnt were some of the best habitat and populations were considered relatively healthy."

Dams, urban pollution, land clearing for agriculture, housing developments and closed fishing nets also pose a serious threat to these beautiful animals.

"One-third of platypus habitat in QLD and NSW could be gone in our lifetime."

Shrinking habitats

New projections also show climate change is destroying platypus habitat in the north of Australia, pushing the species closer to extinction.

One-third of platypus habitat in inland Queensland and New South Wales could be gone in our lifetimes.

Photo of Wazza

"If the platypus disappeared I would be absolutely devastated," says Wazza who has been living around platypuses for his entire life. For the last 30 years, he has run the Platypus Bushcamp in Mackay, Queensland.

This particular spot is likely to be a remaining stronghold for platypus in the face of climate change, but nothing is certain.

"It's not just the platypus. There are things that feed off of the platypus, things that the platypus feed on.

It's a whole food chain all the way down the line, whichever way it goes."

Creek running through Platypus Bushcamp

Sign reading "Platypus Viewing Pool - No Swimming And No Fishing"

Desk with books and framed image of platypus

Protecting platypus habitats that can withstand a warming climate is more important than ever.

We love the platypus. We can’t get this wrong. We already have the worst mammal extinction rate in the world.

Platypus Swimming

Platypus Swimming

Photo of Wazza

Protecting platypus habitats that can withstand a warming climate is more important than ever.

Speak up for the platypus

Add your voice to the petition to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, asking them to support ambitious global goals for nature to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and achieve a Nature Positive world by 2030.

Sign the petition

Invite your friends to raise their voice to nature too.

Australia must work with other nations to deliver ambitious global goals for nature to halt and reverse biodiversity destruction and set us on a path to a nature-positive world.

Photos of Wazza, Bushcamp, and platypus swimming by Grumpy Turtle Creative. Other Platypus photos by Doug Gimesy.


Marian Reid

Senior Content Producer at Australian Conservation Foundation