“The quality of the water is good. It’s definitely improving,” said Dr. Bino.
His team has determined that there are plenty of prey species, mostly ‘large freshwater bugs’ such as water bugs and the larvae of tube damselflies and dragonflies. The researchers are also mapping the presence of deep pools where a platypus can take refuge during drought.
dr. Bino is working with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to eradicate foxes, which prey on platypuses during dry spells as they clamber between pools.
Platypus in southern NSW are being examined for those suitable for relocation to the Royal National Park. dr. Bino said they would only be taken from areas where “we are not undermining the resilience and viability of that population”.
Joshua Griffiths, senior wildlife ecologist at EnviroDNA, developed the eDNA technology in 2015 that has revolutionized the way scientists collect data on platypuses. He said the only attempt to restore a platypus population to the wild took place in a small creek outside Melbourne in 2004.
“Unfortunately, things are not going well for that population right now,” he said. “But a lot has been learned from that to show that platypuses can be reintroduced.
“The challenge is always to have a good living environment. They are far from being on the brink of extinction. But platypuses are such unique creatures, and because they depend on aquatic ecosystems, they come into direct conflict with us for a resource, namely water.”
In 2020, Dr. Bino and colleagues at UNSW called on the Scientific Committee on Endangered Species to include platypus as a nationally endangered species, as they are not protected under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999† Their appeal was rejected because there was insufficient national data to prove a significant dip in platypus numbers.
“We don’t want to get into a situation like the koalas where we think ‘yes, yes, everything is fine’. And then all of a sudden you wake up and the species is in danger of extinction in some areas,” says Dr. Bino.
“You have sedimentation that makes rivers shallower, and on top of that you have climate change and drought that dries up rivers.”
Mr Griffiths said a species cannot receive specific protection if it is not on the endangered species list.
“They also don’t get any money contributed to their conservation. Until we understand how much of a problem platypus has, all the threats they face now are likely to get worse.”
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights of the day. Register here†