The platypus (Ornithorynchus anatinus) is a egg laying mammal that sadly can be called an EDGE (Evolutionary Distinct and Global Endangered) species.
Human driven impacts such as climate change induced drought (which significantly reduces – and even eliminates – river water flow), urban development, the recreational use of lethal opera house nets (to catch river crustaceans), fishing lines left in rivers, and plastic pollution, all conspire to drive this species to become threatened from extinction. A new an important initiative – The Platypus Conservation Initiative, driven from the University of NSW Centre for Ecosystem Science, has partnered with Taronga Zoo and assembled a national team of experts in the field to investigate issues like:
> Genetic diversity across regions
> Platypus movement up and down rivers, particularly with young
> Historical changes to their distribution, and most importantly
> Threats to their conservation and what can be done to mitigate this
Over the next year I will be working on a series of images for publications like Australian Geographic to try and capture the issues surrounding this iconic species, and also help raises awareness so we can all help address current and future threats.
In the interim, if you live in Australia, what can you do to help? Well there are lots of things, however as a start.
1) Please use less water – even at home – it allows more to be released from dams into their home environment
2) Pick up any plastic rings you find (e.g. hair ties, rubber bands) – platypus can get there heads caught
3) Pull out and report any opera house nets (yabby traps) you find in public waterways and ask anyone you know who use them on private land, to choose safer alternatives – they are easily available.
Also, if you sometimes visit places where you may see a platypus, please download the app ‘PlatypusSPOT’, and report any sightings. As a citizen science initiative, then more information we have about this elusive mammal, the better position we will be to help in its conservation and preservation.