Mid North Coast home to the elusive platypus

A Platypus swimming in the river.


THE Mid North Coast region is certainly diverse when it comes to the nation’s fauna.

It is not only home to koala and dingo populations but platypus are also able to be found in our inland creeks and streams.

Platypus are hard to spot and are elusive.

However, taking the time to sit quietly by a river bank and spotting a platypus is a rewarding experience.

In Gloucester, not far from town, and the Barrington Tops you can sit and watch for platypus or you can even cool off in the same rivers that the platypus call home.

A recent three year study by a team from the University of NSW has found that these unique monotremes are at risk with some large dams having a serious impact on downstream platypus populations.

The researchers from UNSW Sydney’s Platypus Conservation Initiative in the Centre for Ecosystem Science (CES) say the natural flow regime needs to be replicated on dammed rivers if platypus populations are to recover in areas below large dams.

“The way dams are managed, such as the timing and volume of the release of water, can significantly impact on platypuses living downstream,” lead author Dr Tahneal Hawke said.

Their findings published in the international scientific journal Aquatic Conservation, are concerning as much of the distribution of platypus overlaps with highly regulated or dammed rivers.

A landmark assessment by the scientists last year recommended the platypus be listed as a threatened species under Australia’s and NSW environmental legislation.

That assessment found that river regulation was one of the major threats to platypus, along with historic land clearing and extreme droughts.

For this study, the CES researchers surveyed platypuses in unregulated and regulated rivers on upstream and downstream sections of large dams across three regions of eastern Australia: the Upper Murray, Snowy, and Border River.

“Protecting platypuses remains a real challenge because much of their habitats coincide with regulated rivers,” co-author and researcher Dr Gilad Bino said.

“Reducing negative impacts through better water management will be vital in preserving this iconic species, which is experiencing multiple and interacting threats.”

Professor Richard Kingsford, a co-author and Director of CES, said there is much to be learnt about the complex effects of dams and sustainable management of our rivers.

“There are opportunities to use environmental flows to improve outcomes for rivers and platypuses by ensuring sufficient allocation of the water to the environment and releasing water at the right time of year,” he said.

“We also need to make sure that base-flows, particularly during drought periods, are high enough to ensure permanent waterholes which serve as critical refuges for platypuses and other freshwater species.”

As part of the Platypus Conservation Initiative, the researchers continue to investigate platypus populations, working with state and local governments to develop conservation strategies to protect the iconic species from further declines.

Aussie Ark rescued and rehabilitated five platypus after the Black Summer Bushfires, which were released back into the wild near Gloucester.



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