We Zoo keepers weren't at all surprised to see the recent story on the platypus surviving being accidentally caught in a treatment plant in Western Sydney.
Although Platypus still live in the waterways of Sydney's outskirts, they are so elusive that they are rarely seen so post people in Australia's largest city still know next to nothing about them.
Here at Taronga we get to work closely with two pairs of platypus that currently live in our Platypus House. This great underwater viewing system also has an extensive network of burrows and dens linked to three separate bodies of water which is not seen by zoo visitors. These mimic the burrows and dens on the side of river or creek beds that platypus return to after foraging for food.
One of our Platypuses called Annie was brought to Taronga’s Wildlife Hospital after being attacked by a dog. Initially it was thought that she would not survive but to vets and keepers amazement, she is still with us today. I’m not surprised that a platypus could be found in an urban stream if there is plenty of food and good water quality as these animals are actually quiet tough. As we are now coming into their breeding season, males can be pushed out of their mother’s territory to establish their own territory up or down creeks and rivers.
Just like the only other species of monotreme, the echidna, platypus are also known to be very persistent. I have seen a platypus climb a two metre high corrugated iron fence to get to the other side. This is obviously some feat for an animal that is only up to 50cm long. Taronga was only the second zoo in Australia to breed platypus in human care.
Usually in the wild they are relatively hard to see and declining water quality in some areas has restricted their distribution along the east coast of Australia. To see them in the wild requires a lot of patience and knowledge otherwise you may be waiting a while to see one, but its well worth the wait.
- Keeper Daryl