Climate Change Threatens Platypus Population
Platypus population numbers have been steadily dwindling for the past 30 years. Platypus habitats have shrunk by more than a fifth and their numbers have dropped by 30% in this time. This semi-aquatic animal is getting increasingly threatened by environmental changes and extreme weather conditions. Thanks to the platypus’ elusive nature, and their declining population, it is becoming increasingly difficult to monitor their numbers.
The Effected of Climate Change on the Platypus
Platypuses are semi-aquatic, meaning they can live both in water and on-land, much like the otter. They are usually seen, hunting underwater for annelid worms, insect larvae, and freshwater shrimp. Platypuses are also one of only five egg-laying mammals in the world. They are now classified as “near threatened”, meaning they are on the brink of becoming an endangered species.
University of New South Wales ecologist Gilad Bino has said that there is currently a limited amount of understanding as to how the bush fires impact the Platypus population. Devastating bush fires and an extended drought impacted the mid-north coastal region of New South Wales in 2019. Studies that followed shows the impact of these events.
The bush fires appeared to result in less platypuses being seen in the burn waterways. The worst of which being the Bobin Creek and Dingo area. This was when compared with the non-burnt areas such as the Thone River. Fortunately, they seemed to return in April when flooding washing through the damaged area.
Other Threats to the Platypus Population
It is not only the extreme weather conditions that threaten Platypuses, but several other environmental and man-made factors as well. The platypus relies on access to flowing water, much like the beaver. With dams being constructed throughout Australia, which are choking off the natural flow of water, their environment is being heavily impacted. There is also waterway diversion taking place which has a similar effect.
Additionally, being semi-aquatic, Platypuses also rely on the surrounding woodland as part of their survival and natural habitat. Land-clearing is just as detrimental to the Platypus population as it is to many other species. With land-clearing being one of the biggest threats to wildlife in general for many years now. As well as littering and the discarding of fishing equipment, which is also a well-established danger to both aquatic and land creatures.
With the demand for meat ever-growing, cattle are being bred more and more, and may invade their territory. Cattle often causes large amounts of destruction as they roam the land. Cattle incursion on platypus territory often results in the destruction of riverbanks and platypus burrows.
How Are Platypuses being Tracked?
Researchers are currently capturing platypuses in carefully constructed nets, tranquilising them, and attaching electronic tags to allow them to be tracked. They then take urine and blood samples, a genetic biopsy and a fur sample. All of these are then used to monitor the population and gauge their diet and overall health. An un-tagged platypus was recently caught, which caused some excitement.
Gilad Bino has spoken on the matter, saying creeks and rivers need to be protected now, before reaching “the point of no return”. By intervening now and protecting them at this stage, platypuses still have a chance to recover and thrive, saving them from extinction.