Put Australia’s platypus on the vulnerable species list, scientists say

An adult male platypus named Millsom, Australia, photo: Reuters/Mick Tsikas
An adult male platypus named Millsom, Australia, photo: Reuters/Mick Tsikas

Severe drought brought by climate change, land clearing for farming and dam-building are shrinking the living area of the platypus, an animal unique to Australia.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) advised the government to place the semi-aquatic animals on the vulnerable species list since their habitat shrunk more than a fifth in the last 30 years.

“There is a real concern that platypus populations will disappear from some of our rivers without returning if rivers keep degrading with droughts and dams,” said Richard Kingsford, director of the university’s Center for Ecosystem Science.

The animals cannot live outside water, and as the continent dries further and people draw more water from rivers, some permanent pools could get even smaller, he added.

A platypus looks like a combination of different animals: beak and webbed feet like a duck, tail of a beaver and body and fur of an otter. The animals lay eggs and live mostly across Australia’s eastern seaboard.

Platypus numbers may have more than halved over several decades, research models show, but figures are hard to pinpoint as they are secretive nocturnal animals.

”Platypus are a bit out of sight, out of mind. You know, no one really sees them that often because they’re nocturnal. We don’t know that much about them because they’re difficult to work on,” Kingsford said.

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