Australia to build world’s first platypus sanctuary

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

Australia will build the world’s first sanctuary for the platypus to promote breeding and rehabilitation, conservationists announced on Wednesday. The duck-billed animal faces extinction due to climate change.

The Taronga Conservation Society Australia and the New South Wales State government said they would build the facility for up to 65 platypuses with mostly ponds and tunnels.

“There is so much to learn about the platypus, and we know so little,” Taronga director Cameron Kerr told reporters. “These facilities will be critical in building our knowledge so that we don’t let this iconic creature slip off the earth.”

Severe drought brought by climate change, land clearing for farming and dam-building have drastically shrunk the living area of the platypus.

The extreme wildfires in late 2019 and early 2020 in Australia killed many platypuses. Conservationists have feared their extinction ever since.

Scientists estimate nearly three billion animals died in what the prime minister called the country’s “black summer”. The government said that bushfires would likely occur more often because of warming temperatures.

The furry, web-footed animal is an egg-laying mammal and generally lives around small streams and slow-moving rivers in cooler temperatures.

“The refuge will give us a chance to really learn about what sort of environments they like and what is most likely to encourage them to breed,” said Kerr.

Last year, a separate inquiry found that koalas would be extinct in New South Wales by 2050 due to deforestation for farming, wildfires and urban development.

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