Platypus at risk of extinction

Pablo Tucker
January 22, 2020

The platypus is being pushed to the "brink of extinction", according to scientists.

The platypus, a beaver-tailed species that is one of very few mammals that lay eggs, is endemic to eastern Australia, Tasmania, and South Australia, but is "practically extinct" in the latter.

This led to the extinction of local populations across about 40 per cent of the species' range, reflecting ongoing declines since European colonisation, the researchers said.

"Australia has the worst land clearing rate in a developed country as well as the worst mammal extinction rate in the world".

This drought has caused rivers to dry up, leaving platypuses stranded, according to Aussie Ark, a conservation organization based in the Greater Barrington region of New South Wales. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) dubbed the species "near-threatened" in 2016, putting it in the same category as thousands of others including the tiger shark, Gila monster and piping plover.

The study was published January 9 in the journal Biological Conservation.

"These dangers further expose the platypus to even worse local extinctions with no capacity to repopulate areas", Gilad Bino, a researcher at the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), said in a statement.

"This animal is one of the most unbelievable animals that we have on the planet and it would be a very sad day if we were ever in the position of losing them", he said.

"Platypus are a Gondwanan dinosaur species-they are monotremes, egg-laying mammals, some of the oldest lineages of mammals on earth".

The study found that under current climate change and threat projections, the platypus population could decline by up to 73 per cent over the next 50 years, and their spread shrink by as much as 56 per cent.

Actions that should be taken in order to preserve platypus populations include stepping up conservation efforts around monitoring, habitat management and threat mitigation, the authors said. The primary threats to platypuses come from human interaction with their habitats, as dams can stop them from moving, fishing nets can trap them and agricultural activity can destroy their burrows.

The animal is not now listed as an endangered by the government in Australia, but following the release of the report many experts are advocating for the animal to be recognised as endangered, according to The Age.

Just after Christmas, a team of experts from ACT Parks and Conservation, the Taronga Conservation Society Australia and the UNSW Sydney's Centre for Ecosystem Science sprung into action, aiming to relocate the Tidbinbilla platypuses before the water totally dried up.

They noted that in 41 per cent of known platypus environments, not a single sighting of the animal was recorded during the 2010s.

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