Rehabilitating Platypuses After an Australian Drought

Have you ever seen a platypus? We assume not, unless you’ve seen one at a zoo or have been to its native home, Australia. However, even if you have been to Australia, platypus are very elusive creatures and are only found in the fresh waters of eastern Australia or Tasmania. Hence, it is Taronga Conservation Society Australia’s mission to ensure this special mammal is better understood through conservation efforts. 

Platypus-Taronga

Platypus in keeper’s arms

Photo © Taronga Conservation Society Australia

 

With funds raised from Greater Good Charities and the Morgridge Family Foundation, a platypus refuge, rehabilitation, and reproduction facility will be constructed at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia. Construction for the facility is scheduled to start in late 2021. The goal is for it to be operational by the summer of 2022! 80 drought displaced platypus will be safely provided for in the facility. 60 platypus will be housed at Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, while 20 will be housed at Taronga Zoo Sydney. The habitat will be composed of a resting box, a water tank, and an earth tank, all of which researchers, zookeepers, and behavioral monitors will have easy access to discover new information about the animals. Once the facility is complete, it will be the first ‘breed to release’ facility for platypus in the world! The platypus that will be housed across the two zoos would otherwise die because of the conditions of Australia’s drought. 

Droughts are no stranger to Australia because of the country’s rainfall changes and geography. Australia’s dry weather is a contributing factor of bushfires, such as the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires. The majority of the destruction and deaths were in New South Wales, which is where the Taronga Zoo is located. Because of the bushfires last year, almost 3 billion animals were either displaced or killed (World Wildlife Fund). Additionally, the loss of habitats makes it difficult for species to recover (Center for Disaster Philanthropy). This is why the work of Taronga Conservation Society Australia is imperative. Rescuing animals from harsh conditions allows them to recover before returning to their natural habitats. 

Taronga is a zoo-based conservation organization with a special concentration on the preservation of their Legacy Species: critical species inhabiting Sumatra and Australia (one of which is the platypus). They perform world-class conservation research and create programs for students to experience conservation science in action. The plan for the construction of the platypus facility would not have been carried out if it weren’t for donors like you. Your donations prompted other donors such as the New South Wales government, the RSPCA, and many smaller funders to contribute to the construction costs of the platypus facility. 

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The drought is evident in this photo of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Natural bodies of water within the reserve almost dried up completely. 

Photo © Taronga Conservation Society Australia

 

In 2020, teams from Taronga rescued seven platypus from the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, just south of Sydney. After caring for them for four months at the Taronga Zoo, the platypus were returned to the wild. Taronga’s teams were also asked to rescue several other platypus in New South Wales, but they were unable to because of the lack of facilities to hold that many platypus. Future funding for this project would allow the team at Taronga Conservation Society Australia to rescue other species from harsh environments, until they are ready to be released back into the wild.

Check out this short clip about the rescue and release process of platypus from Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve:

 

 

Thank you for contributing to the remarkable work performed by Taronga Conservation Society Australia. For the safe futures of these animals, it is vital that people understand their lifestyle and the help they need. Read more about Taronga Conservation Society Australia by visiting their website here.