Fragile platypus population holdings its own in Mackenzie River

Searching: Wildlife ecologist Josh Griffiths checks his nets in the Mackenzie River where a successful platypus survey program was conducted last week.
Searching: Wildlife ecologist Josh Griffiths checks his nets in the Mackenzie River where a successful platypus survey program was conducted last week.

A platypus survey in the Grampians this week shows a fragile platypus population is holding its own despite ongoing dry conditions.

Discovery: Wildlife ecologist Josh Griffiths with the 16-month old female platypus he discovered in the MacKenzie River this week. Photo: Wimmera CMA.

Discovery: Wildlife ecologist Josh Griffiths with the 16-month old female platypus he discovered in the MacKenzie River this week. Photo: Wimmera CMA.

The Wimmera Catchment Management Authority survey in the MacKenzie River found a juvenile male about four months old and recaptured a female about 16 months old, who they first found last year. 

Wildlife ecologist Josh Griffiths from Melbourne-based environmental research company cesar said it was exciting to find a new juvenile, which is the fourth year in a row of successful reproduction within the population. He said the recapture of the female was also pleasing because it showed juveniles were able to survive to adulthood.

Josh found the platypuses near Zumsteins where most previous captures have occurred. Wimmera environmental water releases are targeted in this area to help keep the fragile population alive.

Wimmera CMA chief executive David Brennan said through ongoing dry conditions the focus was on maintaining suitable conditions for as long as possible so platypus, fish, bug and plant communities could stay in good shape and be resilient to whatever conditions lie ahead.

He said he was pleased with the survey results, which were one form of monitoring the river’s overall health.

“Everyone at the CMA and the broader community gets pretty excited when we find platypuses in our catchment because they are such a rare sight. We are really pleased that the environmental releases have been able to help maintain this small population,” Mr Brennan said.

He urged people who have seen a platypus in their local river or creek to register their sighting on the platypusSPOT.org website.

“The more we know about the health of our river the better, and if there are other platypuses in our catchment we would love to know,” he said.

Next month, Josh will take eDNA samples in the upper Wimmera River around Elmhurst. While there are isolated sightings of platypuses in the upper Wimmera River, the last survey commissioned by Project Platypus in 2012 found no platypuses and conditions have gradually dried out since then.

The more we know about the health of our river the better and if there are other platypuses in our catchment we would love to know.

Wildlife ecologist Josh Griffiths
This story Platypus survey success first appeared on The Stawell Times-News.