The platypus is a unique mammal with a duck’s bill, a beaver’s tail, otter’s feet, and egg-laying abilities. But did you know they can only be found in a specific place in Australia?
Platypuses can only be found outside of Australia’s San Diego Zoo. As urbanization destroys their natural habitat, the platypus population has significantly declined over the years. They do not adapt well to different environments.
What is a Platypus?
The platypus or Ornithorhynchus anatinus is a small amphibious mammal native to Australia. It is recognized for its rather unique appearance and special adaptation abilities. They are commonly found in the eastern waterways in Australia, where they have an abundance of bottom-dwelling invertebrates like crawfish. Platypuses also consume frogs and other insects.
These timid creatures prefer solitude. They spend their days resting in burrows they made by the banks or foraging through the bottom of freshwater systems.
Male platypuses have a spur on the inner side of their ankles. This is connected to a venom gland located on their thigh. These spurs help with defense against other creatures. The venom itself is potent enough to kill other small animals and cause pain to humans as these spurs penetrate through the skin. (Source: Britannica)
Are Platypuses on the Endangered Species List?
Recent studies show that the platypus population has been significantly declining over the years. In fact, many of the native fauna in Australia have declined or totally disappeared throughout the 20th century. As of 2021, the platypus is currently listed as near threatened in South Australia. There are about 300,000 platypuses left.
The platypus has declined right in front of our noses. We have a huge area across the range of the platypus where we literally don’t know if they’re even there or in what numbers if they are.Tahneal Hawke, University of New South Wales, Platypus Conservation Initiative
These magnificent creatures used to dominate rivers and streams throughout Tasmania and Eastern Australia. However, their numbers have been plummeting due to excessive hunting, climate change, and the loss of their habitat because of urbanization.
But this issue isn’t new. Scientists have been aware of this problem since the 1980s, but their warnings were ignored.
We’ve been monitoring platypus since 1995, and the decline is certainly evident.Tiana Preston, Melbourne Water
While the population decline is apparent, several scientists feel that more extraordinary measures must be taken in order to save their population.
There isn’t a ton of great data, but the data we have suggests that our estimate of where that baseline is wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers have halved or even more.Gilad Bino, University of South Wales
(Source: National Geographic)
What is The Great Australian Platypus Search?
Australia’s San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance collaborated with several partners to conduct the largest platypus survey. The project is called The Great Australian Platypus Search or GAPS. Through this program, researchers can comprehensively map out the current distribution of the platypus population within Southeastern Australia.
By knowing which area is gravely affected, proper conservation efforts can be made to focus on areas in need. (Source: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance)