Platypus death prompts warning

THE death of a young platypus in Maffra last week has prompted the Australian Platypus Conservancy to issue information to help protect the local population.

The platypus was found wandering Maffra’s main street near the library Thursday last week.

It was taken to a nearby wildlife shelter but did not survive the night.

Australian Platypus Conservancy conservation biologist Melody Serena said that the animal was a juvenile male and the most likely cause of death was that it had been hit by a car before being rescued.

“At this time of the year many young platypuses disperse to try to find territories of their own,” Dr Serena said.

“Platypus babies first emerge from the nursery burrows in late January-February.

“After a few weeks, many of these youngsters (especially the males) are forced to move out by the established adults who do not want competitors for resources in their home territory,” she said.

“The evicted youngsters often move long distances seeking somewhere to live.

“Many occupy sub-optimal habitats but some are totally displaced, ending up in all sorts of unexpected places, sometimes a considerable distance from the nearest creek or river.”

Local wildlife carer Debbie Radde said that the young platypus was in poor condition when taken in late at night and nothing could be done to save him.

She said he was made comfortable before dying a few hours later.

Dr Serena said the good news was that this incident, along with other recent sightings, suggested that platypus numbers were increasing after a period of difficulties for this unique mammal.

“Several years of drought and the 2006-07 bushfires, followed by the extreme floods of 2008, all took a considerable toll of platypus in the Macalister River system and adjoining catchments,” she said.

But she warned the community still needed to avoid causing problems for platypus.

“Many platypus die each year as a result of being killed in opera house yabby traps, which are illegal to use in public waterways,” Dr Serena said.

“Likewise, deaths also result from animals becoming entangled in litter, especially discarded lengths of fishing line.

“Uncontrolled dogs and cats are also known to kill platypus, especially juveniles.

“If you do see or encounter platypus in unusual places, please let the Australian Platypus Conservancy know the details.”

Dr Serena said the process of juvenile dispersal was still poorly understood, so all information was of great value.

“Likewise, please report all sightings of platypus — such information is vital in tracking how local populations are faring,” she added.