Help spot platypus in rivers across the Goulburn Broken Catchment

Thursday 7 February, 2019
A call is going out for people to get involved in a citizen science project to keep track of platypus numbers in rivers across the Goulburn Broken Catchment.

Goulburn Broken CMA is working on the project with the Australian Platypus Conservancy (APC).

Goulburn Broken CMA Project Officer Sue Kosch said the conservation status of the platypus had now been recognised as ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

“Despite being a much-loved Australian animal, surprisingly little is known about how platypus populations are currently faring,” she said. “It is vital that we get a good idea of how this special species is faring in our region so that we can plan appropriate conservation action. The platypus is also an excellent indicator of the environmental qualities of our waterways, so monitoring its numbers also helps with assessing changes in the health of our rivers and creeks.”

The APC is about to launch the Australian Platypus Monitoring Network (APMN).  A dedicated website and app will promote volunteer participation, provide improved training and mentoring for volunteers, and facilitate immediate uploading of sightings records in the field. Participants will also be able to obtain personalised feedback about their own monitoring results.

APC Biologist Geoff Williams said platypus numbers had declined over many decades as a result of environmental degradation and altered flows.

“Human activities also had an impact, especially through the use of opera house yabby traps and other fishing nets that kill platypus,” he said.  “Fortunately, there is now a huge opportunity to bring the platypus back.  Considerable work is being done by CMAs and other agencies to rehabilitate river habitats and improve environmental flows. There is a growing public awareness of the risks to platypus posed by litter and illegal fishing activities.  The Victorian Government’s ban on enclosed yabby traps from mid-2019 will save the lives of many platypus.” 

He said monitoring platypus numbers was a key part of future planning.

“Getting the local community involved in the APMN will be a great way of helping the species. It doesn’t take a huge time commitment - you don’t have to watch for platypus every day; once or twice a week is fine on average, though you can also certainly look more often if you want. Similarly, a standard monitoring session requires just 5-10 minutes of observation time at each site. Many APMN participants fit their platypus scanning sessions into other day-to-day activities, such as taking a walk, biking to and from work, or checking a stock pump.  Volunteers who are able to monitor on their private land are particularly welcome and they are able specify that their site is restricted and not open to use by other observers.”

APC platypus experts will be presenting a free information session and training sessions on the following days:

  • Benalla: Platypus talk - Friday February 22, 7pm at the Moira-Benalla Club, 1 Benalla St, Benalla. Training workshop – Saturday February 23 at 4pm (Lake Benalla – please register)
  • Yea: Platypus talk & training work shop – Thursday February 28, 2pm at the Yea Council Chambers, 15 Semi Circle, Yea.
  • Alexandra: Platypus talk & training workshop – Thursday February 28, 7pm at Alexandra Council Chambers, Perkins St, Alexandra.
  • Seymour: Platypus talk – Friday March 1, 7pm at Chittick Park Community Place, Chittick Park, Pollard St, Seymour. Training workshop – Saturday March 2 at 4pm (Goulburn River Seymour – please register)

The sessions are free but registration is essential.

Please RSVP to Andrea Muskee on 5822 7707 or andream@gbcma.vic.gov.au by 5pm Tuesday February 19 for the Benalla sessions and by 5pm Tuesday February 26 for the Yea, Alexandra and Seymour sessions.
This project is funded through the Victorian Government’s Environmental Water Program.