The platypus has been reintroduced into the Royal National Park in Australia for the first time in over 50 years. Known for their unique bill and webbed feet, platypuses are one of Australia’s most iconic animals.
Four female platypuses were released into the park on Friday. Six more platypuses, two females and four males, will also be reintroduced into the park.
The project, the first attempt at rewilding the platypus in New South Wales, is critical for the animals. The platypus is increasingly threatened by habitat destruction, river degradation and extreme weather events amplified by climate change, such as droughts and bushfires.
In 2020, a survey from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) found that recorded platypus sightings over the last 30 years in New South Wales had declined by almost one-third.
The platypuses were collected from different locations across southeastern NSW and underwent various health assessments before being relocated.
“I feel very responsible for these platypuses that we’re relocating to a new home,” Gilad Bino, a researcher from UNSW’S Centre for Ecosystem Science, who led these expeditions, told news agency Reuters. “I’m hopeful and optimistic that they will be able to establish a new population that will be thriving in the Royal National Park for everyone to enjoy.”
Over the next two years, each platypus will be tracked to help researchers understand how to intervene and translocate the species in case of extreme weather events.
“So rewilding the platypus is likely to become a real significant conservation management tool in the future of this species,” Tahneal Hawke, a researcher at UNSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science, said.
“With the anticipated increases in the severity and frequency of drought, it’s likely that some of their homes will dry out, meaning that we will have to intervene and move those individuals to areas where they can thrive.”
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