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Platypus Populations Hold Steady in Werribee River Surveys

Platypus in Werribee River

Recent surveys conducted in the Werribee River reveal a moderately healthy population of platypuses in the urbanized waterways near Werribee City Centre.

The Werribee River Association, a trailblazer in Victoria for organizing platypus surveys, spearheaded these efforts with funding initially provided by Wyndham City, and further support from Greater Western Water and predominantly Melbourne Water.

The trapping and studying of platypuses, which requires specific permits, entails comprehensive reporting, measuring, health evaluations, and electronic tagging, and is performed by specialists.

The latest survey session was conducted on Thursday, 2 May 2024, by Ecology Australia. It was assisted by a few Werribee River Association staff, including the experienced Werribee Riverkeeper, John Forrester. Volunteers and members present were excited to witness the capture and release of two healthy juvenile male platypuses, about 6 months old and weighing between 900 and 1100 grams.

An adult female was also caught and released later that night. Unfortunately, one of the juveniles had loop litter wrapped around its body. Loop litter is a significant threat to platypuses, causing injury, disease, and death, emphasizing the need to cut looped items such as hair ties, rubber bands, and bottle rings before disposal.

Catching platypus at night
Live trapping platypus in the Werribee River

While the core areas of Werribee City Centre can still support platypuses in small numbers, a report by John Forrester and the Werribee River Association in 2023, detailing 25 years of platypus research, indicates the species is indeed threatened.

“The Werribee River Association’s latest reports tell the story of how we need to protect platypus into the future – with environmental flows, widening and improving the riparian strip of vegetation, education of communities and engineered solutions to stormwater pollution, to support the water bugs, the food source of the platypus,” said the Werribee Riverkeeper.

Advocates for the platypus and the efforts of the Werribee River Association are encouraged to visit their website to find out more about supporting their work, through volunteering, membership, or a donation.

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