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Today, Taronga Western Plains Zoo launches Project Platypus, a community conservation education project aimed at supporting Platypus populations that live in NSW’s Western region.

Project Platypus is designed to raise awareness in the community that the Orana region is the most western location in which Platypus are found in NSW.

The pilot project has commenced with five local schools including Dubbo Christian School, Dubbo South High, Wellington Christian School, Macquarie Anglican Grammar School and the Lincoln School.

The project is designed to empower students to become advocates for a local species not just by raising awareness, but through helping their families and communities change their attitudes and behaviours towards their local environment, in order to help protect platypus.

“Today the students are on a field day to gain a greater understanding about habitat requirements for the species, threats to the Platypus and river health issues.  We are planting 300 shrubs and trees to enhance the habitat for the Platypus populations in the Macquarie River,” said Zoo Education Officer, Kristy Robberts.

“Students will participate in water quality testing, habitat surveys, fisheries information sessions and Aboriginal educational workshops today, learning more about platypus and the importance of conserving their habitat.”

“Students will also participate in the project during school hours through curriculum-based subjects such as science, art, literature, geography and HSIE.  The project will culminate with students conducting an Expo Day for the community in August, where they will share their knowledge,” said Kristy.

“The aim is to have a successful pilot program of Project Platypus so that it can be continued into the future allowing other schools from the region to get involved and in turn creating more advocates for the species,” said Kristy.

The Platypus is considered common, however it faces many threats to long-term survival including degradation of rivers and streams and banks for suitable burrows, irresponsible land use practices, illegal netting and trapping of fish and crustaceans as well as pollutants and dog attacks.

People can also get involved through River Smart’s Platypus Watch program by contacting the Dubbo Field Naturalist Society at contact@dubbofieldnats.org.au.  Communities along the Macquarie River are being encouraged to tell us where and how often they see Platypus in the river.

Project Platypus is a Taronga Western Plains Zoo initiative in partnership with Central West Catchment Management Authority, River Smart and a number of other community partners.  For more information about Project Platypus visit www.taronga.org.au.

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