News

Help track numbers

By Country News

A call is going out for people to get involved in a citizen science project to keep track of platypus numbers in rivers across the Goulburn Broken catchment.

Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority is working on the project with the Australian Platypus Conservancy to launch the Australian Platypus Monitoring Network.

The platypus has been listed as ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

‘‘Despite being a much-loved Australian animal, surprisingly little is known about how platypus populations are currently faring,’’ Goulburn Broken CMA project officer Sue Kosch said.

‘‘It is vital that we get a good idea of how this special species is faring in our region so that we can plan appropriate conservation action. The platypus is also an excellent indicator of the environmental qualities of our waterways, so monitoring its numbers also helps with assessing changes in the health of our rivers and creeks.’’

The APMN will include a dedicated website and an app that will promote volunteer participation, provide improved training and mentoring for volunteers, and facilitate immediate uploading of sightings recorded in the field.

Participants will also be able to obtain personalised feedback about their own monitoring results.

APC biologist Geoff Williams said platypus numbers had declined over many decades as a result of environmental degradation and altered flows.

‘‘Human activities also had an impact, especially through the use of opera house yabby traps and other fishing nets that kill platypus,’’ he said.

‘‘Fortunately, there is now a huge opportunity to bring the platypus back. Considerable work is being done by CMAs and other agencies to rehabilitate river habitats and improve environmental flows.

‘‘There is a growing public awareness of the risks to platypus posed by litter and illegal fishing activities.

‘‘The Victorian Government’s ban on enclosed yabby traps from mid-2019 will save the lives of many platypus.’’

He said monitoring platypus numbers was a key part of future planning.

‘‘Getting the local community involved in the APMN will be a great way of helping the species. It doesn’t take a huge time commitment — you don’t have to watch for platypus every day; once or twice a week is fine on average, though you can also certainly look more often if you want. Similarly, a standard monitoring session requires just five to 10 minutes of observation time at each site.’’

APC platypus experts will be presenting free information and training sessions in Benalla, Yea, Alexandra and Seymour in the coming weeks.

■For more information about the information sessions, visit the Goulburn Broken CMA’s events page at: www.gbcma.vic.gov.au

■RSVP to Andrea Muskee on 5822 7707 or email: andream@gbcma.vic.gov.au