Endangered species call, UNSW says, up to a third of platypuses wiped out

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Australia’s platypus population has declined so drastically that scientists now say the elusive egg-laying mammal should be classified as an endangered species.

The platypus, known for its paddle-shaped tail and flat beak, is being chased from rivers at alarming rates, according to a new report from the University of NSW.

The decline in local populations has been most distressing in New South Wales, where scientists noted a 32% reduction, and Queensland (27%).

Victoria saw a 7% drop statewide, but there have been reductions of 18-65% in some Melbourne watersheds since 1995.

Platypuses are found in rivers and streams in eastern Australia and Tasmania. Photo: Peter Walsh

Disturbed by their findings, scientists – along with the Australian Conservation Foundation, World Wildlife Fund Australia and Humane Society International Australia – proposed that the platypus be listed as endangered as part of the Commonwealth and New Wales processes. from South.

Assessing species as threatened flora or fauna is the first step in promoting their recovery under Commonwealth law.

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“Platypuses are on the decline and we must do something about the threats to the species before it is too late,” said Professor Richard Kingsford, lead author of the report and director of the Center for Ecosystem Science at UNSW.

“There is a real concern that platypus populations will disappear from some of our rivers without returning, if the rivers continue to deteriorate with droughts and dams.

“We have a national and international responsibility to care for this unique animal and the signs are not good.”

Environmentalists use TBEN to protect the platypus affected by bushfires in East Gippsland, Victoria with the help of volunteers. Photo: AAP

In a statement to TBENA spokesperson for Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the threatened species listing proposal will be considered as part of new processes to speed up nominations of species affected by bushfires, including the platypus.

“The Morrison government has already – as part of the $ 200 million Bushfire Wildlife and Habitat Recovery Program – invested approximately $ 1 million in projects that support the platypus and its habitat, as well as ‘a number of other species found in similar locations,’ the spokesperson said.

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The 2019-2020 bushfires had a devastating impact on Australia’s wildlife, killing an estimated 1.25 billion animals and destroying 10 million hectares of bush habitat.

The east coast – especially NSW – was the region most affected.

While the focus has been on salvaging land animals like koalas, the platypus – which lives in Tasmania and along the mainland’s east coast – has become a hidden victim.

Modeling by UNSW researchers suggests that about 13.5% of platypus habitat has been damaged by bushfires.

The platypus has waterproof fur. Photo: Peter Walsh

The elusive platypus has puzzled scientists for years.

Not only is it a major freshwater carnivore, it’s one of the last monotremes – or egg-laying mammals – left on Earth.

In 2010, Australian scientists discovered that the milk of the semi-aquatic animal contained a protein strong enough to fight superbugs and found a hormone in their venom that could help cure diabetes.

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The platypus is also an integral part of many indigenous cultures, featured in ancient Dreamtime stories still shared today.

But without action, we risk losing these special creatures forever.

Platypuses are nocturnal. Photo: Peter Walsh

Animals are finding it increasingly difficult to survive in places where natural river systems and water flows have been altered by humans, such as the Murray-Darling Basin.

New dams, land clearing, pollution and increased housing estates are partly to blame, as is over-extraction of water from rivers, the researchers found.

Attacks by foxes and dogs, getting caught in yabbie traps and the effects of climate change such as drought have also made the animal’s hardship worse.

Endangered Australian animals threatened with extinction include the black-sided rock wallaby, the rainbow-colored Gouldian finch, and the furry northern quoll.

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