Australia to open world’s first platypus sanctuary in fight to save species

Intense wildfires in Australia, as well as droughts and reduced rainfall, severely threatened egg-laying mammals existence

Ella Glover
Thursday 04 March 2021 13:20 GMT
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Over the last three decades, platypus habitats have shrunk by up to 22 per cent, or about 200,000 square kilometres

Australia is set to open the world’s first platypus sanctuary in order to help the native species from going extinct.

The duck-billed platypus, a species unique to Australia, is facing extinction due to bush fires and drought linked to the climate crisis.

By 2022, the Taronga Conservation Society Australia and the New South Wales State government will open the specialist facility at a zoo 391km from Sydney. The facility will consist mostly of ponds and burrows for the semiaquatic creatures.

The refuge will be the first of its kind around the world and will hold up to 65 platypuses in time of crisis.

Taronga chief executive officer Cameron Kerr said: “Right now there is so much to learn about the platypus, and we know so little.

“These facilities will be critical in building our knowledge so that we don’t let this iconic creature slip off the earth.”

The platypus sanctuary will be the first of its kind around the world
The platypus sanctuary will be the first of its kind around the world (Getty Images)

Intense wildfires in Australia in late 2019 and early 2020, as well as droughts and reduced rainfall, severely threatened the egg-laying mammal’s existence. 

Over the last three decades, platypus habitats have shrunk by up to 22 per cent, or about 200,000 square kilometres. 

Last year, scientists called for the platypus to be designated a threatened species. Researchers said climate change had played a role in the loss of small rivers and streams where platypuses forage for food and lay eggs.

The platypus is currently listed as endangered in South Australia and is recommended to threatened status in Victoria. 

Scientists from the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Ecosystem Science said last year that if the current threats to the animal from climate change remain, platypus numbers will collapse by up to 66 per cent in the next 50 years, and by 73 per cent by 2070.

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