The platypus, a unique and endangered Australian mammal, has made a remarkable comeback to Sydney’s Royal National Park after being locally extinct for 50 years.
The park, located south of Sydney, is the first site in New South Wales to host a translocation program for platypus, which aims to re-establish a genetically diverse and self-sustaining population.
Five female platypus were released into the park’s Hacking River this week and will be followed by four males next week. The animals were collected from southern NSW and brought to Taronga Zoo’s purpose-built platypus refuge, where they received health checks and were fitted with transmitters.
The project is a collaboration between the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Taronga Conservation Society Australia, UNSW Sydney and WWF-Australia.
Platypus are under threat from habitat destruction and fragmentation, which increase their extinction risk and reduce their resilience to climate change. The species is also vulnerable to droughts, bushfires and floods, which have become more frequent and severe in recent years.
The reintroduction of platypus to the Royal National Park is seen as a crucial step to ensure their survival and restore balance to the ecosystem.
NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said: “The iconic platypus is under immense pressure. The work that has gone into this project to get to the point of releasing these platypus is essential to assure the security of these species into the future.”
Cameron Kerr, director of Taronga Conservation Society Australia, said: “Shy and enigmatic, platypus are the silent victims of climate change. While their elusive behaviour keeps them from view, under the surface they are particularly susceptible to drought and environmental change.”
Dr Gilad Bino, from UNSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science, said: “We hope that people will be inspired by the incredible platypus and its successful reintroduction, as it serves as a testament to what can be achieved through conservation and dedicated efforts.”
The platypus is believed to have disappeared from the park after a major chemical spill on the Princes Highway in the 1970s, but numbers may already have been in decline. The park’s water quality and pest control have been improved to make it suitable for platypus again.
The project team will monitor and track the platypus over the next year to determine the success of the reintroduction. If successful, the platypus will hopefully breed and spread out in the park.
The platypus is one of only five living species of monotremes, mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. It has a duck-like bill, a beaver-like tail and webbed feet. It is also one of the few venomous mammals, as the male has a spur on its hind foot that can deliver a painful sting.
- Platypus return to Sydney national park after 50 years | Shepparton News | 5/14/2023
- Platypus return to Royal National Park for the first time in decades | NSW Government | 5/14/2023
- Platypuses return to Sydney’s Royal National Park after disappearing for decades | ABC News | 5/14/2023