Authority keen for news on platypuses
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.