What does the Platypus and the Opera House have in common? Give up? Well visitors to Taronga Zoo are finding out thanks to some volunteers who have been shedding some light on the elusive creatures.
Being the symbol of Taronga Zoo Sydney, we love these animals, but they’re also one of the most unusual animals in the world. In fact they’re so unusual, that when the First Settlers sent a platypus specimen back to Britain it was assumed to be a hoax. Platypus are in fact one of the only two egg-laying mammals or monotremes in the world, with the other being echidnas.
Swimming freely in fresh water using its webbed feet, the platypus looks more agile than it seems with heavy fur and a big bill. It’s very hard to take a clear picture of it moving in water as the platypus can swim quickly and being predominately nocturnal they’re generally more active at night.
“With a bill, the platypus doesn’t have any teeth but uses the electroreceptors inside its mouth to find and capture food on the ground using the horny plates to grind food down,” one volunteer said.
Although nationally protected throughout its range, many wild platypus are easily captured mistakenly in people’s yabby traps, as the delicious yabbies are also on their diet.
“This is not good, because, you can imagine, the platypus may be a mother and has babies waiting to be fed at home,” another volunteer patiently said to kids visiting the Zoo.
Because platypus can easily get stuck in the net, yabby nets with a small opening are illegal for fishing in NSW, these are also called ‘Opera House Traps’ because of the shape of the nets which resembles the famous Sydney landmark. However, this information is still not well known.
“This talk is not just for kids. It’s amazing how the adults don’t know this information as well. When I was a kid, the illegal net was widely used. And today still many adults think it is OK,” said one volunteer.
The legal net for fishing, also called the ‘hoop net’ has much larger openings, serving the same purpose as the old ones but allows animals other than yabbies to swim freely out of it.
After talking with the volunteers, people are willing to change their old nets to protect the platypus, which is a great step forward in conserving these weird but wonderful creatures and other wildlife that can be caught up in these traps.
For more information on platypus, their distribution and how you can help conserve them, visit http://www.platypus.asn.au/
Visit our volunteers at the platypus information stand outside the nocturnal Print Friendly Taronga Zoo Map on the Wild Australia Trail.