The Future of Platypus

, By Yarra

In the heart of the Yarra, Birrarung, there exists a remarkable creature – the platypus, known as Dulai Wurrung in the language of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people. These enigmatic animals are a testament to nature’s creativity.

Last week we were fortunate to attend the inaugural Future of the Platypus conference at Healesville Sanctuary. While no platypus were spotted during the three days we did find out a lot about the elusive platypus.

With their duck-like bills, webbed flippers, and a surprising ability to glow faintly in the dark through photoluminescence, platypuses have a reputation, but look further than their appearance. They are skilled builders, fashioning burrows as snug as basketballs. Their nests are warm and humid, and cradle furless babies born in December through February.

The best times to witness these enigmatic creatures are at dawn and dusk, but if you’re lucky enough to spot one, remember not to disturb them. Now is the time to get out and about as it’s mating season.

Tasmania boasts the highest platypus population density per kilometre of water, and these versatile mammals can even navigate land without fear of predators, prompting road signs warning of platypus crossings.

However, challenges abound. The Yarra, Birrarung River, home to these remarkable creatures, faces threats from urbanisation, pollution, habitat destruction, and more. Climate change and bushfires loom ominously on the horizon, jeopardising their delicate ecosystem.

To protect these precious creatures and their habitat, we must address climate change, curtail urban encroachment, and ensure clean waterways. Preventing litter and pollution, along with responsible water usage, are crucial steps.

Local organisations like YRKA play a pivotal role in advocating for river health and protecting the platypus’s home. Joining initiatives like the Birrarung Riverfest, which celebrates World Rivers Day, can help raise awareness and funds for their conservation.

While approximately 317,000 platypuses still grace Australia’s waters, the devastating toll of the Black Summer bushfires claimed around 6,350 lives. As custodians of this unique ecosystem, it is our responsibility to ensure the future of these remarkable creatures, preserving their magic for generations to come.