With Threatened Species Day fast approaching (7 September), the Australian Conservation Foundation is calling on people to head to their local creek or river to try to spot a platypus and help build a national population map for this elusive species.
In last year’s Platy-project, ‘citizen scientists’ saw platypuses at 59 locations where the species hadn’t been recorded for more than a decade and in 45 spots where they were documented for the first time.
“There is so much we don’t know about where platypus live and how they have been affected by fires and floods in recent years, so the Platy-project helps fill gaps in our scientific knowledge,” said ACF’s national nature campaigner Jess Abrahams.
“In September last year nature lovers spotted 860 platypuses — from far north Queensland, through NSW and Victoria to Tasmania and on Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
“Encouragingly, platypuses were found in 45 locations where the species was recorded for the first time, including in rivers west of Rockhampton and near Emerald, in Queensland.
“As well as helping us find out where platypus populations are thriving and where they are struggling, the project is also a great chance for people to reconnect with nature.
“We don’t know how the coming El Niño summer will affect platypus numbers, but heatwaves, bushfires and rivers drying out are likely to be detrimental to them.
“A study of the impact of bushfires on the species estimated a 14 to 18% decline in platypus populations in fire affected areas in the nine months following the Black Summer fires.
“Platypuses are strange, beautiful and elusive creatures. There is no other animal like them. We should do everything we can to protect them and their habitats.
“Australia is in the midst of an extinction crisis. More than 2,000 unique Australian plants and animals are threatened with extinction. We can’t let the platypus be next.”
ACF runs the Platy-project in partnership with UNSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science.
Header pic by Pete Walsh