Six months later, platypuses exceed expectations in Royal National Park

January 05, 2024

Platypus sightings are once again a thing among visitors to Royal National Park, underscoring the value of the Platypus Reintroduction Project. Photo: UNSW Sydney/Richard FreemanSix months after the historic reintroduction of platypuses to Royal National Park, the platypuses are thriving in their new habitat. Each of the 10 released platypuses carries an acoustic tag which pings listening receivers up and down the rivers of the Royal National Park. "The platypuses have adapted exceptionally well to the Royal National Park, a testament to the robustness of both the species and the habitat. Dr Gilad Bino uses a radio antenna to track the movement of platypuses released in Royal National Park.

Platypus sightings are once again a thing among visitors to Royal National Park, underscoring the value of the Platypus Reintroduction Project.

A platypus swims in the Hacking River shortly after being released in the Royal National Park back in May 2023. Photo: UNSW Sydney/Richard Freeman

Six months after the historic reintroduction of platypuses to Royal National Park, the platypuses are thriving in their new habitat.

This good news comes following a significant conservation effort through a collaboration between the Platypus Conservation Initiative (UNSW Sydney), WWF-Australia, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Taronga Conservation Society.

Each of the 10 released platypuses carries an acoustic tag which pings listening receivers up and down the rivers of the Royal National Park.

The latest data show nine of the 10 reintroduced platypuses are within the tracked area of the Hastings River. The 10th platypus has ventured beyond the team’s tracking capabilities, which it has done before when it investigated one of the smaller creeks and the team remains confident it is again exploring these habitats.

Read more: Platypuses in the Park

The Platypus Reintroduction Project is guided by a commitment to preserving the park's unique biodiversity and supporting the long-term success of the platypus population.

Community engagement

NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said the initial results of the translocation project look promising.

“The iconic platypus is under immense pressure, however, the latest monitoring of the released platypus at Royal shows real hopes for assuring the security of these species in the park,” she said.

“Translocation is just one conservation measure that can help ensure the survival of NSW species such as the platypus against threats.”

“There is considerable community interest, with Royal National Park visitors now reporting platypus sightings.”

“It is vitally important that the water quality of the Hacking River catchment is managed to ensure protection for the community and some of our most iconic native species.”

“This engagement underscores the value of such conservation efforts in connecting people with nature and raising awareness about the importance of preserving our environment and Australia's unique wildlife.”

Lead researcher on the translocation project, Dr Gilad Bino, with UNSWs Centre for Ecosystem Science, said the reintroduction has exceeded their initial expectations.

"The platypuses have adapted exceptionally well to the Royal National Park, a testament to the robustness of both the species and the habitat. We are closely monitoring the one platypus which has ventured beyond our monitoring capacity, but she will no doubt reconnect soon," he said.

Dr Gilad Bino uses a radio antenna to track the movement of platypuses released in Royal National Park. Photo: UNSW Sydney/Richard Freeman

Water quality

Platypus researcher Dr Tahneal Hawke, from the Centre of Ecosystem Science, said the team continues to monitor water quality.

"Recent water quality and macro-invertebrate surveys show the system is in generally good condition, offering suitable resources for the platypuses,” she said.

“As they enter their breeding season, we are optimistic they will breed.”

Professor Richard Kingsford, Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science, said the success of the translocation goes beyond the platypuses and has directed more attention on the overall health of the river environment.

"We have already seen considerably more interest in issues of water quality and catchment management because of these amazing animals, which can be a powerful indicator of the resilience of freshwater ecosystems and a flagship for river conservation," he said.

Patrick Giumelli, conservation ecologist at WWF-Australia, is collecting all the data on movements for his research project at UNSW, part of an important collaboration on this project.

“Every time I come out here to collect new data, we get fascinating new insights into how the platypuses are moving and interacting with their new habitat, which will hopefully bode well for future establishment,” he said.

Dr Tahneal Hawke sets a fyke net to capture platypuses in the Snowy River region back in April 2023. Photo: UNSW Sydney/Richard Freeman

Hopes for new generation of platypuses

Plans are underway to conduct comprehensive surveys in the park next year to assess the breeding success and overall health of the platypus population. The goal is to confirm whether the reintroduced platypuses have successfully reared young, marking another milestone in this ambitious conservation plan.

As the project moves into its next phase, the team remains committed to monitoring the platypuses through the breeding season and beyond, ensuring the continued success of this pioneering reintroduction effort.

Platypuses are facing multiple threats across their range, putting considerable strain on their ability to thrive over the longer term. They are currently listed as ‘Endangered’ in SA and ‘Threatened’ in Victoria. There is an increasing need to actively manage their conservation for the ongoing survival of their populations, including such initiatives as the reintroduction program at the Royal National Park.

The source of this news is from University of New South Wales

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