'Something’s going to give': Platypus staring down the barrel of extinction

·News and Video Producer
·3-min read

Platypus are one step closer to being listed as vulnerable to extinction in Victoria.

Citing “mounting evidence” that numbers of these aquatic monotremes have “reduced significantly”, the Scientific Advisory Committee issued a preliminary recommendation that it be listed as threatened.

Drought, bushfire, climate change, habitat destruction and human population growth have all been listed as having an impact on the species.

The platypus, one of Australia's most iconic species, could be listed as threatened in Victoria. Source: Josh Griffiths
The platypus, one of Australia's most iconic species, could be listed as threatened in Victoria. Source: Josh Griffiths

Platypus are notoriously elusive creatures and hard to count, but researchers estimate there could be as few as 10,000, but not more than 100,000 individuals left across Australia.

The nomination to list platypus was initiated by wildlife photographer Doug Gimesy three years ago, after platypus ecologists he was documenting voiced their concerns about declining animal numbers to him.

Mr Gimesy, who travels the country on assignment regularly, told Yahoo News Australia he has been pained to see populations of key species drop as they are impacted by our changing environment.

“Especially with these aquatic species, their environment is being destroyed but we often don’t see that it’s happening because it’s underwater, and that’s frustrating and disappointing,” he said.

“The honest truth is that I wish my nomination had been rejected as that would have meant that platypus were fine, but it wasn’t, so really it’s sad news.

“I really hope if their environment is protected, it will have a flow-on effect to less known species like Rakali and native fish.”

Nomination key to platypus survival

Independent researcher group Cesar say they have consistency found falling platypus numbers while undertaking localised studies across Victoria.

As humans continue to impact on the environment, senior ecologist Josh Griffiths fears that platypus numbers will decrease further.

Senior ecologist Josh Griffiths believes without intervention, platypus numbers will continue to decrease. Source: Josh Griffiths
Senior ecologist Josh Griffiths believes without intervention, platypus numbers will continue to decrease. Source: Josh Griffiths

“There's nowhere that we're finding populations that are steady or increasing, they're all seem to be on the decline,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

“A large part of that seems to be changes to water flow regimes and land clearing, and those things are expected to increase in the future due to population growth and climate change.

“If they’re declining now, things are expected to get worse in the future.”

If the platypus is listed as threatened, developers will have to pay special attention to the animal in their planning, and Mr Griffiths hopes this will help ensure its survival.

“I think part of the problem has been that there isn't a lot of attention on platypus,” he said.

“Because they're not listed as threatened, they don't receive any particular protection.

“We have limited land and water to go around, and if we don’t act soon, something’s going to give.”

Public submissions into the listing of the platypus are now open and can be made until September 21.

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