New male found in platypus survey
Researchers surveying the Mackenzie River in the Grampians for platypus last week discovered an adult male at Zumsteins, which had previously avoided capture.
Wildlife ecologist Josh Griffiths was keen to recapture a juvenile female they named Maddie last year, or any others, especially juveniles, but the platypuses remained elusive.
The monitoring is part of a Wimmera Catchment Management Authority program to measure waterway condition and outcomes from environmental flows.
Mr Griffiths said although he would have liked to have discovered more platypuses, it was still great news to find the male.
He said the platypus, estimated about two years old, was in ‘really’ good condition.
“This discovery indicates the river system is providing good enough quality habitat to sustain the population and allow it to grow,” he said.
“We would have loved to have discovered more, and we all had our hopes pinned on rediscovering Maddie who captured our hearts last year.
“The reality is this is a very small population and these surveys are never guaranteed to yield results.
“I am just pleased to have discovered a new male. Every year we discover new animals, which indicates the population is growing, although very slowly.”
Mr Griffiths said environmental flows were critical for the lower section of the Mackenzie River beyond Grampians National Park.
“It’s noticeable every time I come here that the quality of habitat in the river is improving, which is allowing this platypus population to expand,” he said.
Wimmera CMA staff members, Project Platypus manager John Pye and community members including two Stawell Secondary College senior students joined Mr Griffiths during the surveys.
Wimmera CMA chief executive David Brennan said the results were encouraging.
“Environmental flows we send down the Mackenzie River play an important role in maintaining habitat during dry conditions to help keep this small and fragile population going,” he said.
“We have all become attached to these platypuses and have given them names.
“We have Dusty, Amber, Ted, Smoot, Max and Kenzie and Maddie. We’ve also put out a call on social media to name this new male.”
Mr Griffiths also took EDNA samples in the river, including sections closer to Laharum where residents had confirmed recent platypus sightings.
The EDNA testing involves analysing water samples for cellular traces of aquatic life.
Wimmera CMA will have results later month.
“This lower section of the river is in good condition at the moment and we’re hoping the EDNA results will show that the platypus population has moved further downstream,” Mr Griffiths said.
“We haven’t captured platypus in this section of the river before via our survey nets, but that does not mean they aren’t there.
“The EDNA test is highly sensitive and is a much more efficient method for discovering platypus and has shown that they have recolonised areas where they disappeared during the millennium drought.”
• Wimmera CMA encourages people to become involved with looking for platypuses and reporting their sightings via platypus SPOT online at www.platypusspot.org or via the platypusspot app. this
Left, Josh Griffiths caught this two-year-old male platypus during surveys. Wimmera CMA has put out a call to name the platypus; right, Project Platypus manager John Pye, left, and Josh Griffiths, and two Stawell Secondary School senior students camped...