Take part in the platy-project this summer!
By Maggie Riddington, Nature Outreach Organiser at the Australian Conservation Foundation
The platypus is one of Australia’s strangest and most iconic animals, with its rubbery duck bill, fur, and webbed feet. Platypuses are like no other animal on the planet, but sadly land clearing, dams, drought, and bushfires are destroying critical platypus habitat. To survive, platypuses need a safe habitat to call home.
The platy-project aims to fill the biggest gaps in platypus data using citizen science. We’re asking communities to survey for platypus where they live and record what they see to help researchers understand more about this incredible creature and help prevent further declines in numbers.
Above: photo by CazzJj
Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have designed and created a map that prioritises the biggest gaps in platypus data. We know the platypus has a large distribution – from the tropics of northern Queensland to temperate Tasmania – but little is known about which specific waterways platypuses inhabit, including whether declines in populations or local extinctions have occurred.
Researchers could never hope to fill these gaps in data themselves, which is why they need the community to help out.
Prom Area Climate Action is located in an important place as far as platypus sightings go. The platy-project map displays areas within the platypus’ predicted range where they have never been recorded, or where they haven’t been seen in a while.
Exploring the map you can see that platypus have been sighted in more recent times (since 2011 or later) in the waterways around Foster and in the Franklin River*, but if you head west to Fish Creek or east to Alberton, the sightings suggest that platypus haven’t been recorded there since the early 2000s.
Above: grids and icons in red, orange, and yellow indicate records of platypus sightings that were made in or prior to 2010.
Every sighting of a platypus (and even no sighting!) is super important information for researchers.
Take part in the platy-project this February, and hopefully you’ll experience the magical moment of a platypus encounter. To participate, go to www.acf.org.au/platy-project to learn more and to download the toolkit that tells you all about how to spot a platypus.
Better yet, RSVP to PACA’s survey event on the morning and go looking for platypus with great company!
When: Sunday 13th February 2022, from 3-6pm
Where: Pearl Park, Main Street Foster
RSVP: via our platy-project page
*Interestingly, there appears to be no evidence that the platypus occurs in Wilson’s Promontory itself, which you can see from the map with the exception of two very old sightings. (Grant, T. R. (1992). Historical and current distribution of the platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, in Australia. Pages 232-254 in M. L. Augee, editor. Platypus and Echidnas. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.)