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When we think of iconic Australian animals, the Platypus is usually one of the first that comes to mind! Unfortunately, the duck-billed, flat-tailed aquatic wonder is potentially on the brink of extinction, but there are lots of things you can do to help this unique species survive.
Let’s take a look at some interesting facts about the Platypus, the threats they’re currently facing, and some of the ways we can help!
Why is the Platypus species so unique?
The Platypus is a truly fascinating species — they’re utterly adorable, too. Along with the Echidna (another iconic Australian animal), Platypuses are grouped into a separate category of mammals known as monotremes. Monotremes are distinguished from other mammals because — you guessed it — they lay eggs!
Platypuses are one of Australia’s oldest mammals. In fact, we know that monotremes were present in Australia during the Mesozoic Era (the age of the dinosaurs!), and when Australia was still part of the supercontinent, Gondwana. Pretty amazing, right?
Platypuses are found in freshwater streams, mostly in Eastern Australia. The perfect habitat for the Platypus is usually a river or stream with earth banks and native vegetation for protection. In fact, our very own Justine saw one when she was canoeing down the Mitta Mitta River!
Platypuses feed during the night on aquatic invertebrates — its wide bill is equipped with electro-receptors which helps it to detect its prey! The Platypus has dense, waterproof fur and webbed limbs — both of which enable them to propel through the water at a rapid speed.
Why is the Platypus on the brink of extinction?
Unfortunately, the Platypus is at risk of becoming extinct — which would be a devastating loss for Australia’s wildlife, culture and identity. The heartbreaking news from scientists and conservationists all across Australia has been attributed to land-clearing, urbanisation and climate change.
These modern-day threats are getting worse for the Platypus. Unsustainable water extraction from rivers and creeks, the building of dams and weirs that create obstacles, and riverbank erosion from land-clearing all have a major impact on the burrowing and nesting routines for the Platypus. Longer droughts, which are exacerbated by climate change, mean that waterways become dry and shallow. Livestock, wild horses and pigs often damage shallow waterways – which makes them uninhabitable for the Platypus.
Australia has one of the worst mammal extinction rates on Earth.
In this ABC article, Aussie Ark President Tim Faulkner said Australia has one of the worst mammal extinction rates on Earth.
“They've [Platypuses] been in this constant east coast temperate environment, largely unchanged, for millions of years. In our region, they're all dead, they're gone — I can’t find them” he said.
The problem is that the Platypus is relatively hard to find, and a lack of long-term monitoring means that the decline of the Platypus has been largely unnoticed… until now. In NSW, the number of Platypus observations has declined by around 32 per cent in the last 30 years. That’s why researchers at UNSW, along with the Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF Australia and Humane Society International Australia have pushed to list the Platypus as a ’threatened’ species.
How can we help the Platypus species?
Protecting the iconic Platypus and ensuring its long-term survival should be a national priority. Listing the Platypus as a ’threatened’ species would bring the issue to the forefront of the public’s attention and ensure better monitoring and protection for the aquatic species.
For us at home, it’s easy to feel powerless in these situations, but you can definitely help by making sure to clean up after yourself whilst camping or picking up any rubbish near waterways. The best thing to do is to make your voice heard and participate in appeals and petitions!
Sign a Petition
The Australian Conservation Foundation are running a petition to:
Rapidly assess the Platypus for listing as a nationally recognised threatened species.
Strengthen our environmental laws to protect Australia’s unique and incredible wildlife.
If you have a bit of extra cash and you’d like to support real, meaningful action — consider donating to the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife’s “Save The Platypus” appeal. Your money will help to gather scientific experts and fund their Platypus-focused conservation research.
Or, you can even ‘Adopt a Platypus' through the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland! Your funds will be used to support on-ground conservation projects such as environmental DNA sampling surveys, survey equipment, and state-wide campaigns to ensure that the Platypus and their habitat will be taken into account in development planning processes.
How will you choose to help the threatened Platypus?
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