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The horrific trend that's strangling platypus: 'BIG PROBLEM'

WARNING – DISTRESSING CONTENT: Swimmers are being urged to ensure their hair ties don’t come loose in the water after the strangling of yet another platypus.

Images shared by Australian Platypus Conservancy to social media show a dead animal choked by a red and white striped band at Warburton, in Melbourne’s east.

Discovered on March 2, the platypus had been living in a tributary of the Yarra River before it had the misfortune of becoming entangled.

A platypus was found dead with a hair tie around its neck in Warburton this month. Source: Johnathan McLay / Australian Platypus Conservancy
A platypus was found dead with a hair tie around its neck in Warburton this month. Source: Johnathan McLay / Australian Platypus Conservancy

Discarded or lost ties have claimed the lives of several platypus in recent years, including a juvenile female at Bright in Victoria which suffered injuries so “horrendous" she had to be euthanised.

Geoff Williams from Australian Platypus Conservancy said litter is a “significant problem” impacting the species, with hair ties emerging as one of the most deadly items.

Swimmers who enter rivers, creeks and lakes frequently lose them while swimming, but ties and rubber bands can also end up around platypus necks when they are carelessly discarded on land.

“In this day and age, really there's a little excuse for the fact that people are still dropping litter,” Mr Williams told Yahoo News Australia.

“One of the items that's really emerging as a big problem is elasticated hair ties and an amazingly high number of them get lost.

“Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that the minute you get a heavy storm, they get washed into the creeks and they end up around platypus.”

Woman finds almost 200 platypus-killing ties in 12 months

The scale of the issue can clearly be seen in one response to Australian Platypus Conservancy’s post, with a Victorian woman claiming to have picked up close to 200 bands in a year.

Between 2021 and 2022, while walking at Diamond Creek, in Melbourne's east, she reportedly picked up the following:

  • 168 hair-ties.

  • 21 elastic bands.

  • Four silicone rings.

  • One metal ring.

A Victorian woman claims to have picked up 168 hair-ties in a year. Source: Facebook
A Victorian woman claims to have picked up 168 hair ties in a year. Source: Facebook

Platypus have not been well studied and national population estimates vary between 30,000 and 300,000 individuals.

Habitat loss and climate change are believed to be the biggest threats to platypus. The species have been listed as endangered in South Australia, vulnerable to extinction in Victoria and they could soon be declared nationally threatened.

While the endangered listing of platypus should see them acquire better protection, many conservationists remain frustrated at the slower than expected pace the Victorian government has moved.

While state authorities claimed more than a year ago to be taking “urgent action” to conserve the species, they are yet to devise a management plan, a key step in securing the animal's future.

Platypus could be extinct by 2100

The use of yabbie traps, known as Opera House nets, remain a significant threat to the platypus.

Although they have been banned in most Australian states where platypus live, Queensland’s government permits their use in some areas.

Last week, camping and fishing retailer BCF announced to Yahoo News Australia it would be withdrawing the product from sale.

Queensland's government continues to allow the sale of Opera House nets despite calls to ban them. Source: Supplied
Queensland's government continues to allow the sale of Opera House nets despite calls to ban them. Source: Supplied

The move has been welcomed by many conservationists, who had been frustrated by the retailer’s ongoing sale of the items, despite other major retailers including eBay banning them years ago.

Research is currently underway to determine where platypus remain in Australia, with one estimate suggesting in just 30 years their habitat has disappeared by at least 22 per cent..

WWF-Australia told Yahoo News Australia that without concentrated conservation efforts the species could be extinct by 2100.

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