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We’re going on a eDNA Platypus hunt – calling residents to help find them in the Hawkesbury

Mar 18, 2023


Do you have a Platypus or two in a creek near you? In an attempt to find out where the shy and elusive creatures are after the upheaval of the recent floods, a small group of locals are set to try and pinpoint their locations.


The plan is to carry out eDNA testing for Platypus in Kurrajong, Kurmond, Bilpin and the broader Hawkesbury area.


This coming Saturday, Western Sydney University’s Dr Michelle Ryan will demonstrate how to complete the simple water tests in Kurrajong and surrounds, and then there will be around eight test kits for people to take home with them and test before returning them on the following Monday.


Dr Ryan’s team are particularly interested in talking to property owners who live on Little Wheeny Creek, or a creek where locals suspect there might be Platypus in the Hawkesbury, to test the water to learn more about where Platypus are currently living, post floods.


“Historically, there is a lack of data on the distribution of Platypus populations in the Hawkesbury,” says Dr Ryan, who is Senior Lecturer Ecology and Environmental Science at the university’s School of Science.


A Platypus going for a swim…


“There was a lot of anecdotal evidence, but little scientific evidence. Since 2019 we have used environmentalDNA (eDNA) to determine Platypus presence in the waterways of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment.


“Platypus are fairly common in the Hawkesbury. We are currently working on determining their numbers, health and movement patterns.


“In January we began a multiyear study, conducting mark-recapture surveys, to look at the dynamics, distribution and health of the population in the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment.


“While we have only just begun, we have found a number of juvenile Platypus, which tells us we have a breeding population.


Testing using eDNA starts with a simple water sample from a creek…


“It is really important that we start to work together to improve the habitat for the Platypus so we can see these populations in the Hawkesbury thrive.


“Platypus are elusive, not many people get to see a wild Platypus. They are shy creatures. Many people do not even know they are in creeks on their property.


“eDNA is a great way to confirm the presence of platypus. All you need is a water sample, and it’s really quick and simple to do.


“If people in the Kurrajong/Kurmond/Bilpin areas who live on a creek would like to know if there is Platypus in their section of a creek please register for this event. It is important that people know what is going on in their backyard so we can live in a way that helps protect these amazing creatures,” Dr Ryan told the Post.


“We have found Platypus in most creeks in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment, which really surprised us! We knew we have them in the River, but never expected that we would find that all those creeks, large and small around the Hawkesbury, to be really important for the Platypus population.”


Even an expert like Dr Ryan admits the Platypus is a somewhat puzzling creature.


“Platypus are the world’s strangest creature,” she agrees.


“They are monotremes – a mammal that lays eggs – they use electroreceptors to locate their prey, and the males have a venomous spur.”


They can also glow in the dark…


“One of the pictures shows the Platypus biofluorescence. It means Platypus glow under a UV light. So far, no one is sure why, but it’s another cool thing Platypus do.


And they glow too, biofluorescence comes standard with a Platypus…


“They also play a large role in the food-web of aquatic systems. They are a top predator in the waterway, eating water bugs and helping keep the system in balance.


“There is a lot people can do to help the local platypus populations. Everyone can make sure that they don’t litter, and pick up any litter they see. If you are fishing, make sure you remove all of your fishing line and take it home with you. Platypus can get entangled in litter and discarded fishing line, which leads to their death.”


All our stormwater drains go into our creeks and rivers, so it is important no pollution enters those drains. Watch what you put down your stormwater drain.


“Platypus need good quality riparian zones,” Dr Ryan says.


“Those people who have a creek on their property should make sure there is a healthy amount of vegetation around the creek. From having tall trees all the way down to a complex herb layer. This has so many benefits for the platypus, stabilising banks for Platypus to burrow, reducing erosion, shading the water, providing protection and providing organic matter for water bugs to thrive, providing good foraging for the Platypus.”


You can get more info and a test kit on Saturday…


The Platypus information session will be at Kurrajong’s McMahons Park Community Centre from 9am until around 11am on Saturday March 25. The organisers are looking for locals who would be able to test the water in their creek over that weekend and return the samples on the Monday – March 27th.

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