Helping platypus in our community

Photo courtesy: Australian Platypus Conservancy.

Photo courtesy: Australian Platypus Conservancy.

THE platypus is one of Australia's most popular animal icons and one of the world's most unusual creatures.

It is a furry, warm-blooded mammal but lays soft-shelled eggs like a lizard.

Its amazing bill scans for food underwater and venomous spurs are used by the males to sort out arguments.

Because the platypus is such a special animal, it is often thought to occur only in remote and pristine habitats.

A reputation for being shy and sensitive further adds to the commonly-held belief that it does not live close to human settlement or farming country.

"In reality", says Woo O'Reilly, Upper Murrumbidgee Waterwatch Facilitator, "the platypus is found in many rivers and creeks in the upper Murrumbidgee catchment.

"For example, platypus are regularly observed very close to urban areas such as Queanbeyan's city centre and sightings have even been reported in the Cooma Back Creek."

These sightings provide one of the best illustrations of the fact that people and platypus can live in close proximity.

"Whilst Queanbeyan is certainly a well-known spot for platypus, very little is known with certainty about the current status of the species in many other waterways throughout the upper Murrumbidgee catchment.

"This is an issue that Waterwatch is trying to address by asking people to report sightings of platypus, as well as by doing more in depth community surveys during 'Platypus Month' this August," Ms O'Reilly added.

August is a prime time of the year for spotting platypus as they spend more time feeding and the males are out and about preparing for the breeding season.

While they can sometimes be seen in the middle of the day, the best times to look are around dawn and dusk.

Reporting any platypus sightings is useful because this gives us an indication of where they may be present or absent, while the group surveys will provide an estimate of numbers that may be found in a certain location.

This is of interest because, while the platypus is more robust than they are given credit for, it is generally true that a healthier waterway will support higher platypus numbers.

To submit a platypus sighting to Waterwatch, please send information such as your contact details, time, date, location and any notes about behaviour and habitat can be sent to waterwatch@act.gov.au.

A list of some known platypus locations and platypus spotting tips are also available at the Waterwatch website (www.act.waterwatch.org.au/).

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