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eDNA testing confirms presence of Platypus in Kurrajong and Bilpin

Aug 7, 2023

Recent lab results from an extensive eDNA testing campaign have confirmed the presence of Platypus in the wider Kurrajong and Bilpin areas. The community science initiative, organised with the support of the Hawkesbury Environment Network (HEN) and Dr. Michelle Ryan from the University of Western Sydney (UWS), aimed to locate Platypus habitats, especially in the aftermath of devastating fires and floods.

Last year, residents of Kurrajong and Bilpin joined forces to embark on a mission to determine the whereabouts of Platypus in the region. Dr. Michelle Ryan and her team provided 12 eDNA tests, covering sites from North Richmond to Berambing. These tests allowed community members living alongside creeks to collect water samples and contribute to the conservation efforts by identifying potential Platypus habitats.

Platypus are an indicator of the health of waterways.

Matilda Julian, who was involved in the study and is part of a local platypus advocacy group said she was delighted and surprised at the recent finding.

“People didn’t have a real sense that they are here right now. I tested the site in Bilpin and was curious how far up they would travel. It was quite fascinating to find out that they would travel as far up as almost bells Line of Road in Bilpin…It’s pretty exciting to know that at such a high elevation we have platypus, close to town, close to a main road,” Julian said.

“It gives community something to identify with and a sense of responsibility and evidence that they are there rather than speculation,” she said.

Platypus, a unique and elusive aquatic species, have long fascinated scientists and nature enthusiasts. They are a significant indicator of the health of our waterways and ecosystems. 

The study involved testing DNA particles shed by Platypus.

The eDNA testing involved collecting water samples and analysing DNA particles shed by Platypus in the water through excretion, grooming, and foraging activities. The results unveiled an encouraging discovery, with 7 out of 12 tests returning positive for Platypus presence, effectively confirming their existence in those sites.

The 7 positive test sites include Bilpin along Upper Tootie Creek, as well as Kurrajong Hills encompassing Blue Gum Creek and Little Island Creek. Additionally, Platypus were found to inhabit several sites along Little Wheeny Creek in Kurrajong.

However, researchers said that it is crucial to note that negative test results do not conclusively indicate the absence of Platypus; they merely signify that the animals were not present at that specific location within approximately the last 24 hours.

The study group shared some tips to protecting Platypus:

  1. Use ‘open-topped’ yabby traps: In dams and creeks, opt for traps that do not completely enclose the top, as Platypus are known to visit these locations.
  2. Secure your pump’s foot valve entry: Install a cage around the foot valve entry in your pump to prevent Platypus from swimming up and getting trapped.
  3. Keep waterways litter-free: Platypus are particularly vulnerable to harmful items like fishing line, plastic bracelets, and other plastic debris. Dispose of litter responsibly.
  4. Fence off livestock from creek banks: Platypus prefer habitats with overhanging trees, branches, and stable banks for their burrows.

To further engage the community in Platypus conservation, two events have been planned for the future. On October 7, 2023, a Platypus spotting event will take place, inviting participants to observe these unique creatures in their natural habitat. Additionally, in March 2024, a Water Bug Day event is scheduled, where participants can learn to test their waterways for invertebrates, the primary food source for Platypus, to determine the suitability of the habitat.

Community members are encouraged to report any sightings of Platypus to the Australian Platypus Conservancy, as this information plays a vital role in ongoing research and conservation efforts.

For more information about Platypus and upcoming events, visit the Australian Platypus Conservancy’s website at https://platypus.asn.au/.

Sam Magnusson
Author: Sam Magnusson

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