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Rehabilitated platypuses released in NSW Mid-North Coast, but conservationist call to protect habitat

By Melissa Martin, Monday November 23, 2020 - 16:18 EDT
ABC licensed image
Animal charity Aussie Ark says they fed and nursed the platypuses back to health over six months. - ABC licensed

Devastated first by bushfire and then the drought, five platypuses on the NSW Mid-North Coast have beaten the odds and survived one of the most devastating periods of environmental degradation.

They were rescued by conservationists in early 2020 while conducting food drops for animals struggling to find food.

"All their watering holes had shrunk down to between a backyard swimming pool size and a bathtub size," animal charity Aussie Ark operations manager William Hanson said.

"They were swimming around in their own excrement, without food and in very poor condition."

Aussie Ark recently released the five platypuses back into the wild near Gloucester, NSW following six months of extensive rehabilitation.

At the time of the rescue, the platypuses weighed just 300 grams to 400 grams and were deemed to be so badly emaciated they would have perished within days without intervention.

Now rehabilitated, they are up to three times that weight.

Health concerns for the river

The platypuses were fed and nursed back to health over six months, but while they were well enough for release, concerns remained over their habitat.

At the time of their rescue, the rivers of the Gloucester region were full of ash from bushfires and there was little vegetation.

Each waterway the platypus was collected from was carefully surveyed to check on the water quality and food availability.

"We make sure the river systems look healthy and are going to be a hospitable place for these animals to remain." Mr Hanson said.

"We don't want to be doing a similar thing in another few months."

The animals will now be monitored to ensure their ongoing health.

Conservation needed

The platypuses' release comes amid calls for the animal to be listed as a threatened species, of its habitat in just 30 years.

Mr Hanson supported the calls, however he said there must also be more care for the waterways the platypus called home.

"Obviously, the fires and the drought have not helped, and they've really brought it to a head, but the recovery will be a lot quicker if we hold off sucking so much water out for irrigation and watering cattle and sheep," he said.

"We just need to be a little bit more responsible in our use of these precious river resources than we have been."


© ABC 2020

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