Climate risk drive pushes to save Australia’s strange, elusive platypus

Climate risk drive pushes to save Australia’s strange, elusive platypus

BYABARRA, Austria: It only takes a rustle and splatter of orange floats floating on the River Thon for two Australian scientists to know what they are looking for: the elusive platypus.
Famous for its bill, webbed legs and venomous spurs, the platypus is one of only two egg-laying mammals in the world. Many Australians have never seen one in the wild.
Semi-aquatic animals are under threat from extreme weather events, trying to track their numbers and take steps to prevent their decline.
“There is not much understanding of how fire affects the platypus,” said ecologist Gilead Bino of the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
Platypus numbers have declined by 30% and their habitat has shrunk by more than a fifth in the past 30 years, a UNSW study found last year.
Following an extended drought and gruesome bushes on the mid-north coast of New South Wales in 2019, researchers Bino and Tahnil Haw found fewer platypuses in Dono’s burnt waterways and Bobbin creines compared to unburned areas of the Thon River.
They returned in April after heavy flooding.
“The bushfire will become more severe, and obviously we have these flood events more often, so I think this study would really give us an indication of how the platypus population would react to those events.”
The researchers captured the platypus with a net, silenced them and attached electronic tags. They take blood and urine samples, do genetics to measure the diet of the platypus, and do biopsies for cheek pouch and fur samples.
One night in April, he caught an untagged platypus.
“Very exciting. So it really means that there are more platypuses here than we previously thought,” Beano told Reuters.
In addition to extreme weather, dams, land clearing, and diversion of waterways have also affected populations. Cattle have destroyed important riverbeds for Platypus Burr. Invasive species, fishing nets and plastic rot have also been hurt.
Bino said that rivers and creeks need to be protected and regenerated for a healthy population.
“I think a lot of species you hear about them when it’s too late, they reached that tipping point – the point of no return.”
“But I think we’ve got a really unique opportunity that if we intervene now, we can actually prevent those extinctions in the future and hopefully the platypus will be around for many more generations,” Hakke he said.

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