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Platypus rescue attempt has a silver lining

Friday 26 April, 2019
Four healthy platypus were recorded during a recent attempt to rescue a fifth platypus tangled in litter in the King Parrot Creek.

Australian Platypus Conservancy (APC) biologist Geoff Williams said Flowerdale resident Ken Mival, who is part of the citizen science Australian Platypus Monitoring Network (APMN) project, photographed a platypus at one of his monitoring sites near Hazeldene that had litter – probably fishing line – caught tightly around its body.

“Platypus has large webbed front feet to act as paddles for swimming,” Mr Williams said. “These simply aren’t designed for manipulating items of litter such as fishing line or plastic bags that get stuck around the body. After Ken contacted us we travelled from East Gippsland to attempt a rescue.

Rescue missions are very difficult as platypus are not easy to catch and it takes special equipment and long hours of effort, mainly at night. Trying to trap a specific individual is even harder, especially at it is usually impossible to pinpoint exactly where it might be. In this case, thanks to Ken’s monitoring efforts, we at least had a good idea of where the animal had been seen and so decided it was worth a try. It was a long-shot and unfortunately we didn’t succeed.”

However, the mission had a silver lining with four platypus encountered during the night: two adult females and two juveniles (one male, one female).

“We’re still extremely disappointed that we didn’t save the entangled platypus but we’ve clearly demonstrated that this creek has a good number of platypus and so we hope that everyone will really get the message that great care should be taken to avoid any litter, especially fishing line, entering our waterways,” Mr Williams said. “The fact that this particular entanglement incident was quickly reported shows the APMN program is not only resulting in improved monitoring of platypus numbers but also is quickly identifying problems that might be having impact on platypus.”

Goulburn Broken CMA is supporting the project, which involves volunteers monitoring their local rivers and creeks and uploading sightings to a dedicated website.

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 actions. The platypus is also an excellent indicator of the environmental qualities of our waterways, so monitoring numbers also helps with assessing changes in the health of our rivers and creeks.”

Anyone interested in becoming an APMN volunteer can contact Sue Kosch on 5822 7700, phone APC on 5157 5568 or visit www.platypusnetwork.org.au

This project is funded through the Victorian Government’s Environmental Water Program.