Au­thor­ity keen for news on platy­puses

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

Wim­mera catch­ment lead­ers want to hear from any­one who might have up-to-date ev­i­dence of platy­puses liv­ing in the Wim­mera River sys­tem.

They have also urged any­one who be­lieves they are watch­ing a platy­pus to video or pho­to­graph the ac­tiv­ity.

Wim­mera Catch­ment Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity chief ex­ec­u­tive David Bren­nan said peo­ple had made the au­thor­ity aware of platy­pus sight­ings in var­i­ous ar­eas of the Wim­mera River sys­tem.

But all of the lat­est re­ports be­yond the Macken­zie River in the north­ern Grampians had been anec­do­tal and far from con­clu­sive.

“The only pop­u­la­tion we know for sure still ex­ists in the Wim­mera is a frag­ile group in the Macken­zie, a pop­u­la­tion we also want peo­ple to keep an eye out for,” he said.

“But in the past 12 months there have been anec­do­tal re­ports from ar­eas as far down­stream on the Wim­mera River as Quan­tong, Duchem­be­garra, Dim­boola and An­twerp.

“We would be keen to hear about any fur­ther sight­ings but even more in­ter­ested if peo­ple could cap­ture im­ages, per­haps on their mo­bile phones.”

Mr Bren­nan said the fu­ture of the platy­pus, which, with the echidna, are the only two monotremes – egg-lay­ing mam­mals – left on the planet, had been gen­er­at­ing con­sid­er­able dis­cus­sion in the me­dia.

“This has in­volved threat of ex­tinc­tion as a whole in the face of cli­mate change to lo­cal and frag­ile pop­u­la­tions, such as the group we know is hang­ing on in the Macken­zie,” he said.

“While the hope was for lat­est Macken­zie sur­veys to turn up many more platy­puses, what they did was re­veal two pre­vi­ously un­known young in­di­vid­u­als and that the an­i­mals were in­hab­it­ing the river fur­ther north than pre­vi­ously recorded.

“So we’re keen to keep an eye out for these elu­sive crea­tures to es­tab­lish if we con­tinue ef­forts in ar­eas we know about or move into or try to re­colonise other ar­eas of the sys­tem, per­haps based on river flows.

“And our big­gest al­lies in find­ing out what’s hap­pen­ing are peo­ple who ei­ther live along or reg­u­larly visit the river and its creeks.”

The au­thor­ity’s spring sur­vey in the Macken­zie River led to the re­cap­ture of a 12-year-old male platy­pus, 10 kilo­me­tres from where it was first cap­tured in 2010.

The sur­vey also in­volved the cap­ture of two new two-yearold males.

The live cap­tures backed up ev­i­dence from EDNA sam­pling, which analy­ses wa­ter for cel­lu­lar traces of wildlife, that platy­puses re­mained in the wa­ter­way.

Platy­puses are slow to breed and his­tor­i­cally hard to breed in cap­tiv­ity.

Peo­ple can also some­times mis­take ac­tiv­ity of na­tive rakalis, also called wa­ter rats, as that of a platy­pus; the two species of­ten co-ex­ist in the same habitat.

Platy­pus sur­vival into the fu­ture might play a role be­yond the an­i­mal sim­ply re­main­ing as one of coun­try’s iconic an­i­mals and a liv­ing fos­sil.

Aus­tralian sci­en­tists in a break­through last year dis­cov­ered platy­pus milk con­tained unique an­tibac­te­rial prop­er­ties that might be able to help in the fight against an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance.

Peo­ple can re­port platy­pus sight­ings to the platy­pusspot app or on­line at web­site www. platy­pusspot.org.

Wim­mera CMA has also been run­ning a com­mu­nity com­pe­ti­tion to name the two platy­puses cap­tured in the spring sur­veys. It hopes to an­nounce the win­ning names in the near fu­ture.

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