Our knowledge of platypus distribution and regional genetic diversity are sorely lacking, as are strategies to address the primary threats faced by this freshwater ecosystem keystone species.To this end, multiple groups have been working hard to improve our understanding of impacts of river system regulation (dams, diversions) and climate change on platypus health and distribution, with the goal to reduce extinction risk.
Census data continue to confirm that the wild platypus population has declined over the last 10 years and provide much support for a national risk assessment. Longer term trend analyses, using the online repository “Trove”, suggest that distributions and densities of platypus have declined considerably in recent times. Platypuses tagged by the program teams across regulated and unregulated NSW river systems indicate that interrupting the natural environmental flows of rivers, for example by damming, has been a huge impediment to platypus movement and dispersal. Cost effective conservation actions for the platypus including modification of yabby traps to reduce deaths from bycatch are under consideration by regulatory agencies. Taronga has provided UNSW funding ($10,000) for a stable isotope assessment of platypus diet (with Dr Kate Brandis) and to cover an Honours project supervised by Dr Neil Jordan and Dr Rebecca Hobbs investigating stress in platypus as a function of river regulation.
Taronga: Dr Karrie Rose, Dr Neil Jordan, Dr Larry Vogelnest, Dr Rebecca Hobbs
UNSW: Prof Richard Kingsford, Prof Bill Sherwin, Dr Tom Grant, Dr Gilad Bino, Tahneal Hawke (PhD student)
USYD: Assoc Prof Jaime Gongora
Australian Platypus Conservancy: Dr Melody Serena