The platypus, a duck-billed mammal unique to Australia, was reintroduced to the country’s oldest national park in a landmark conservation project after disappearing from the area more than half a century ago.
The platypus is one of only two egg-laying mammals found worldwide and is known for its beak, webbed feet, and venomous dewclaws.
Mammals live mainly on the east coast of Australia, from the extreme north of the state of Queensland to the island state of Tasmania, near rivers and streams in whose beds and banks they forage for food.
The animal spends most of its time in the water at night, making it difficult for most Australians to see it in the wild.
Four females were released on Friday at the Royal National Park located just south of Sydney, which was established in 1879 and is the second oldest national park in the world.
Since the 1970s there have been no confirmed platypus sightings in the park.
The relocation, a collaborative effort between the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the Australian Taronga Conservation Society, WWF-Australia and the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, comes at a time where mammals face extinction due to habitat destruction. , river degradation, wild predators and extreme weather events.
Estimates of the current population vary widely from 30,000 to about 300,000.
A 2020 report found that platypus habitats have shrunk by nearly a quarter in the past three decades. The researchers found that droughts, reduced rainfall and intense fires linked to the climate crisis had played a role in the loss of small rivers and streams where platypuses forage and lay eggs.
They had warned that the drying of the rivers, the worsening of the quality of the water and the loss of vegetation threatened the species.
“(It’s) very exciting for us to see the platypus return to the park, to have a thriving population establish here and for Sydneysiders to come and enjoy this amazing animal,” said Gilad Bino, a researcher at the Center for Ecosystem Science at the UNSW. .
The platypuses, which live along the east coast of Australia and in Tasmania, were collected from various locations in south-eastern New South Wales state and underwent various tests before relocation.
According to the researchers, each platypus will be tracked over the next two years to better understand how to intervene and relocate the species in the event of a drought, wildfire or flood.