Climate risk drives push to save Australia’s weird, elusive platypuses – Times of India

BYABARRA, AUSTRALIA: Two Australian scientists learn that they have found what they are looking for: the rustling and splattering of an orange sow floating on the River Thon: the elusive platypus.
Famous for its bill, forged legs and venomous spurs, the platypus is one of only two egg-laying mammals in the world. Many Australians have never seen one in the jungle.
Semi-aquatic animals are increasingly threatened by extreme weather events, making efforts to track their numbers and take steps to prevent their decline.
“There is not much understanding of how fire affects the platypus,” said ecologist Gilead Bino of the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
The number of platypuses has dropped by up to 30% in the last 30 years and their habitat has fallen by less than a fifth in the last 30 years, a UNSW study found last year.
Following an extended drought and unsightly shrubs on the mid-northern coast of New South Wales in 2019, researchers Bino and Tahnil Haw found fewer platypuses in the burnt waterways of Dingo and Bobbin Creek than in the unirrigated areas of the Thon River.
They returned in April after heavy flooding.
“Bushfires will become more severe, and obviously we have more frequent incidents of these floods, so I think this study will actually give us an indication of how the platypus population will react to those events,” Hawk said.
Researchers grab the platypus by traps, defuse them and attach electronic tags. They take blood and urine samples, biopsies for genetics and cheek pouches and fur samples to measure the diet of the platypus.
One April night, he caught an untagged platypus.
“Very exciting. So it really means that there are more platypus here than before,” Bino told Reuters.
Apart from extreme weather, dams, land sweep and diversion of waterways have also affected the population. Cattle have destroyed the riverbank important to the platypus bill. Invasive species, fishing nets and plastic waste have also caused damage.
Bino said that rivers and creeks need to be conserved and protected for a healthy population.
Hawk said, “I think a lot of species you hear about them when it’s too late, they get to that tipping point – the point of no return.”
“But I think we’ve got a really unique opportunity that if we intervene right now, we can actually prevent those extinctions in the future and hopefully the platypus will be around for many more generations,” Hawke he said.

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