Protecting our platypus

In a recent survey conducted in early March two healthy female platypus were located in Monbulk Creek

By Derek Schlennstedt

The future of an isolated group of platypus in Monbulk Creek hangs in the balance.

Melbourne Water, environment group Cesar, and Belgrave Platypus have been monitoring a small, isolated pocket of platypus living in Monbulk Creek that are at a high risk of being lost.

In a recent survey conducted in early March two healthy female platypus were located in Monbulk Creek and although this latest count suggests numbers are slowly increasing, Josh Griffiths, Senior Wildlife platypus Ecologist at Cesar said there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure the full recovery of this group.

“We got 2 females; one was a recapture we captured a few years earlier and one was a new female which was probably the most exciting find because there are very few females in the area,” Mr Griffiths said about the recent study.

“Any time we get a new animal is really really exciting and the fact that this one has survived through to adulthood is a good sign for the population.”

According to historical surveys platypus numbers within Monbulk Creek and the Dandenong Catchment have continued to decline and are now at the point where only a handful of platypuses remain.

Mr Griffiths said litter and urbanisation has continued to plague the vulnerable platypus population.

“I’ve been doing surveys here since 2010 and longer term there has been surveys done in Monbulk creek since the mid 90’s.

“Over that time we’ve seen a reduction in abundance, but also they’ve been contracting towards the upper reaches – from Birdsland Reserve up into Belgrave – so the population has been really declining.”

“We have started to see a bit of a boost in numbers but it’s a very slow process.”

To address these issues a project by Melbourne Water aims to protect, improve and create habitat for the remaining platypus population within 12km of Monbulk Creek in Belgrave Heights

To assist with this program Melbourne Water are asking residents for ideas on how to improve the health of Monbulk Creek and identify key issues, opportunities and future priorities. The survey can be accessed here

Mr Griffiths said residents can also assist in protecting these unique Australian mammals by recording any sightings in the platypusSPOT app which helps scientists track platypus numbers.

“These platypuses are in a very vulnerable position at the moment,” Mr Griffiths said.

“Imagine in a few months’ time going for a walk around Birdsland and seeing platypus in those lakes … that’s what we’re trying to work towards.”