Four healthy platypus were recorded during a recent attempt to rescue a fifth platypus tangled in litter in King Parrot Creek, about 35km south-east of Broadford.
Australian Platypus Conservancy biologist Geoff Williams said Flowerdale resident Ken Mival, who is part of the citizen science Australian Platypus Monitoring Network project, photographed a platypus at one of his monitoring sites near Hazeldene that had litter — probably fishing line—– caught tightly around its body.
‘‘Platypus have large webbed front feet to act as paddles for swimming,’’ Mr Williams said.
‘‘These simply aren’t designed for manipulating items of litter such as fishing line or plastic bags that get stuck around the body.
‘‘After Ken contacted us we travelled from East Gippsland to attempt a rescue.
‘‘Rescue missions are very difficult as platypus are not easy to catch and it takes special equipment and long hours of effort, mainly at night.
‘‘Trying to trap a specific individual is even harder, especially as it is usually impossible to pinpoint exactly where it might be.
‘‘It was a long-shot and unfortunately we didn’t succeed.’’
However, the mission had a silver lining, with four platypus encountered during the night: two adult females and two juveniles (one male, one female).
‘‘We’re still extremely disappointed that we didn’t save the entangled platypus but we’ve clearly demonstrated that this creek has a good number of platypus and so we hope that everyone will really get the message that great care should be taken to avoid any litter, especially fishing line, entering our waterways,’’ Mr Williams said.
‘‘The fact that this particular entanglement incident was quickly reported shows the APMN program is not only resulting in improved monitoring of platypus numbers but also is quickly identifying problems that might be having an impact on platypus.’’
Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority project officer Sue Kosch said the conservation status of the platypus had now been recognised 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,’’ Ms 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 actions.
‘‘The platypus is also an excellent indicator of the environmental qualities of our waterways, so monitoring numbers also helps with assessing changes in the health of our rivers and creeks.’’
■Anyone interested in becoming an APMN volunteer can phone Sue Kosch on 5822 7700, phone APC on 5157 5568 or visit: www.platypusnetwork.org.au