Platypus breeding helped by river flows

Increased river flows aim to help platypuses breed. Photo: Healesville Sanctuary.

Flows in the Campaspe River are being increased to assist the breeding of platypus and rikali (water rats).

From mid-June, the current Campaspe winter flow will increase from 50Ml a day to 100Ml, to help platypus, fish and rakali start their important pre-spring activities.

“This flow will start the process of providing foraging opportunities for female platypus,” North Central Catchment Management Authority environmental project manager Darren White said.

“They need to start building up fat reserves now for breeding season. Lactating can take up a lot of energy for platypuses, and they’ll start preparing themselves for that now.

“We need to ensure the conditions are right to support the breeding platypus. This is especially important for the platypus as they don’t breed every year, but are more likely to in wetter conditions.

“We’re making the most of what water for the environment is available to boost their chance of building their numbers.

“That means making sure flows support the growth of key plants, plants that will attract water bugs, which are the base of their food chain.

“If conditions throughout the season are looking good for breeding, then we’ll increase the flows up to 200Ml/day in spring to give them a good chance of a successful breeding season.’’

Mr White said the flows would also help male platypuses.

“From now and over the next few months, male platypuses will start to move upstream and downstream, looking for new mates,” he said.

“A flowing river with connected pools helps them to do that and provides protection and cover against predators.

“And these flows are also important for our native fish. Like the platypus and water rats, they need to move around and discover productive feeding areas.

“These flows will provide the right conditions and habitat for what we expect will be a bumper spring.”

North Central CMA manages environmental flows on behalf of the Victorian Environmental Water Holder.

The Australian Platypus Conservancy said the occurrence of minor to moderate freshes was predicted to assist platypus foraging success by filling marginal aquatic habitats, flushing sediment from the channel, maintaining productive biofilms and otherwise renewing macroinvertebrate food resources.

Conservancy biologist Geoff Williams said they were classified as a vulnerable species in Victoria and for the upper catchment of the Campaspe River that classification was appropriate.

He saw the populations in the lower catchment as in a slightly better position, and the populations had improved since the millennial drought.

“Flows right now are important to help the female platypus gain body condition in preparation for mating.”

Anyone who sees a platypus in a river can report it through the Australian Platypus Conservancy website: