While an attempt to rescue two platypuses entangled in litter in Kilmore Creek on October 8 proved unsuccessful by the Australian Platypus Conservancy, it did provide good news about how the area’s platypus population is faring.
Conservancy biologist Dr Melody Serena said one platypus had been spotted in the pools near the Kilmore Leisure Centre with a plastic ring stuck around its head.
Another had been observed near Bourke Street with what appeared to be a length of thin string or line with a tag of some sort caught around its body.
Dr Serena said a platypus had great difficulty in removing anything that was caught around its body, and its larged webbed front feet were designed to paddle water, and not remove the entangled rubbish.
“These simply aren’t designed for manipulating items of litter such as fishing line or plastic bands that get stuck around the body,” she said.
Dr Melody said it was difficult to catch a platypus, and took special equipment and long hours to capture the animal and attend to it.
“Trying to trap a specific individual is even harder, especially at it is usually impossible to pinpoint exactly where it might be,” she said.
“In this case, thanks to information provided by local residents Mark Edwards and Kerry De Gabrielle, we at least had a good idea of where the animals had been seen and so decided it was worth a try.
“It was a long-shot and unfortunately we didn’t succeed.”
But she said the trapping session at least yielded good news about the general health of Kilmore Creek’s platypus population.
Three platypus were encountered during the night; two adult males and one female – a high number for the relatively short section of creek that was investigated and showed that a substantial population was present right in the centre of Kilmore.
Two rakali (commonly, water-rats) were also caught during the night, and the native rodent was recorded at all four sites where nets were set.
Dr Serena said a large proportion of platypus encounter problems with litter, as high as 30 per cent of the animals in some suburban waterways.
She praised the recent community clean-up effort along Kilmore Creek and encouraged residents to support further action to protect their area’s platypus.
She also asked people to consider participating in the Australian Platypus Monitoring Network, a new citizen science program, which used dedicated volunteers to scan for platypus in waterways.
“We’re still extremely disappointed that we didn’t find the entangled animals,” she said.
“But we’ve clearly demonstrated that this creek has a good number of platypus and so we hope that everyone will really get the message that great care should be taken to avoid any litter entering our rivers and creeks.”
To participate in the Australian Platypus Monitory Network, visit www.platypusnetwork.org.au.