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Wimmera CMA

Street Address:
24 Darlot Street, Horsham, 3400
(enter via Gleed St)

Postal Address:
PO Box 479, Horsham, VIC, 3402
Phone: (03) 5382 1544
Fax: (03) 5382 6076
Email: wcma@wcma.vic.gov.au
 
Office Hours:
Monday to Friday, 8:30 - 5:00pm
(excluding Public Holidays and Christmas - New Year Closure.  Office may also be closed for short periods Monday mornings)

Article

Spring surveys inspire hope for fragile population

Sep 18, 2019


 
Wimmera platypus RupertRupert

Wimmera waterway managers are pleased to recapture a 12-year-old male platypus near Wartook Pottery, 10 kilometres from where he was previously found in 2010.

The find provides evidence that Wimmera Catchment Management Authority’s environmental flow program is on track.

Wildlife ecologist Josh Griffiths from cesar, who has been monitoring the only-known population in the Wimmera for the past decade, last caught the male in the MacKenzie River at Zumsteins in 2010 which he estimated was two to three years old.

“It’s fantastic to recapture him and know that he has survived the past nine years. Also exciting is the fact that I haven’t caught anything this far downstream of Zumsteins since I started surveying for the CMA 10 years ago.

“This capture backs up eDNA results from the past four years which have indicated they are in this section of the river, and demonstrate that environmental water releases have provided the opportunity for them to move further downstream.”

Three in total

In total the spring surveys captured three platypuses; the 12-year-old male, a two-year-old male on the first night and a second two-year-old male on the third night which Josh named Rupert in memory of the father of one of the survey volunteers.

Platypus breed between August and October, young hatch within two weeks and remain in the burrow with their mother for about four months before emerging as juveniles from February to April.

“We put in a huge effort for these surveys and thanks to the support of volunteers from the local community we were able to put out a lot of nets in new places along the waterway. Although we were excited to capture three, we had hoped for more,” Josh said.

“It’s a reminder that this is still a small and fragile population. Platypus are slow to breed so it is going to take a long time for them to recover from the Millennium Drought and Grampians bushfires. We also had summer floods in 2011 and are not sure how many platypus, particularly the juveniles who would have still been in their burrows, survived.”

Community helps name platypus

The Wimmera community has become attached to its platypus population, and Josh is working on a family tree to help keep track of who is who.

“They are the most unusual animal on the planet,” Josh says. “There's so much we don't know about them despite them being so recognisable. Everyone knows what a platypus looks like but there's just so much basic biology we don't know. We're discovering new things pretty much every time we net one. They are quite phenomenal.”

As part of the surveys this week Laharum Primary School and Laharum Landcare Group were involved in a hands-on citizen science session. Josh said he was impressed by how much the students knew about platypus.

“Having our young people so engaged and passionate about their local wildlife is fantastic. We rely on the community to help us keep track of this population by having them report their sightings.”

People can report sightings of platypus to the platypusSPOT app or website www.platypusspot.org 

  • Wimmera CMA has put a call out to the community to name two of the platypus from the spring surveys. To help name them go to Wimmera CMA’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages and leave your suggestion in the comments.