PlatypusWatch

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© Tamielle Brunt

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The aquatic, egg-laying platypus is one of Australia’s most bizarre and iconic mammals. Unfortunately, its habitat in Queensland has shrunk by 27 per cent over 30 years, and its numbers are declining. To counteract these threats, PlatypusWatch is a community-based program that raises awareness of platypus conservation and gathers population data from Queensland waterways so researchers can identify where actions are needed — now and in the future — to protect this very special monotreme.

 

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sites sampled each year

dollars to sample each site

Our aims

Formed in 2003, PlatypusWatch is a central hub for coordinating research into this fascinating species. In 2016, Wildlife Queensland launched PlatyCount — the first statewide platypus distribution census since 2001. Our Platypus eDNA Project also began in 2016, and our researchers now use environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling of waterways along with more traditional surveying methods to document and map platypus distribution and abundance in South East Queensland.

PlatypusWatch also aims to reduce one of the biggest problems platypuses face: human ignorance. People are often unaware their actions affect wildlife living nearby. Our publications, workshops, webinars and citizen science events raise awareness of the factors that result in platypus declines, including:

  • Land clearing: Removing native vegetation along freshwater waterways compromises bank stability, causing erosion and sedimentation. Platypuses need high, stable banks to build burrows for nesting sites.
  • Water use (irrigation, dams, weirs): Disconnected or dried-up river systems force platypuses to travel over land to find another water source in which to feed, mate and shelter. This puts them at risk of entanglement, predation and displacement.
  • Water pollution: Pollution decreases the number of aquatic insect larvae, which are sensitive to changes in water parameters and are the platypus’s main food source, forcing platypuses to seek food elsewhere.
  • Predation: Unrestrained pets and wild dogs can attack platypuses or destroy their burrows if they are allowed to roam riverbanks and creeks.
  • Litter entanglement: Abandoned fishing line and circular litter — such as hairbands, rubber bands and soft plastics — can ensnare platypuses and result in death. Always snip circular rubbish before disposing of it thoughtfully.
  • Drowning in enclosed (opera house) yabby traps: Platypuses need to surface to breathe air. Traps that enable entry but block any exist quickly drown platypuses and other aquatic mammals such as rakali.
Pollyanna the platypus© Nicolas Rakotopare Photography

Tamielle Brunt with platypus Pollyanna. Continued monitoring and up-to-date observational records are crucial for determining fluctuations in platypus numbers and distribution over time, whether temporary or permanent.

Current projects

Ongoing activities

The above projects complement PlatypusWatch’s ongoing efforts to conserve the platypus, including:

  • mapping of the current distribution of the platypus
  • revegetation of riparian flora
  • supporting scientific research
  • hands-on school and community projects
  • educational publications.

 

Mapping these monotremes

Wildlife Queensland has been working with Australian ecological research and services consultancy BioGeo to map the distribution of platypuses in Queensland. Using both observational data from the community and presence/absence data from eDNA, BioGeo is developing a model to pinpoint the habitat niche of the platypus, which helps focus conservation efforts by identifying where platypuses are likely to reside or where reintroductions would have the greatest likelihood of success.

PlatypusWatch e-DNA Tracker

This web map highlights the results from eDNA samples taken from 2016—2020, along with information about each site, the number of copies of DNA found there, and when they were collected. Overlapping grid cells are coloured according to the mean number of copies of platypus DNA at each site across the grid cell and across years. The map also includes data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) of recorded sightings of platypus over a 20-year period, from 1998 to 2018.

Get involved

Volunteer to help

Join our network of volunteers and citizen scientists who help protect and conserve the iconic platypus.

Follow on Insta

Follow our Project Officer, Platypus Protector, on Instagram for all things relating to this marvellous monotreme.

Adopt a platypus

Support our work by symbolically adopting a platypus for a year with a $60 tax-deductible donation.

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