The platypus, a species unique to Australia, was reintroduced on Friday to the country’s oldest national park, just south of Sydney, in a landmark conservation project after disappearing from the area more than half a century ago.
Known for its beak, webbed feet, and venomous spurs, the platypus is one of only two egg-laying mammals in the world and spends most of its time in the water at night.
Due to its solitary nature and highly specific habitat needs, most Australians have never seen one in the wild.
The relocation is a collaborative effort between the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the Taronga Conservation Society of Australia, WWF-Australia and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Four females were released on Friday at the Royal National Park, which was established in 1879 and is the second oldest national park in the world.
No confirmed platypus sightings have been reported in the park, located about 35 kilometers or an hour’s drive south of Sydney, since the 1970s.
The relocation comes at a time when the platypus is increasingly threatened by habitat destruction, river degradation, wild predators, and extreme weather events such as droughts and wildfires.
Estimates of the current population vary widely, from 30,000 to about 300,000.
«(It’s) very exciting for us to see the platypus return to the park, to have a thriving population establish here, and for Sydneysiders to come and enjoy this amazing animal,» said Gilad Bino, a researcher at the Center for Ecosystem Science at the UNSW. .
The platypuses, which live along the east coast of Australia and in Tasmania, were collected from various locations in south-eastern New South Wales state and underwent various tests before relocation.
Each platypus will be tracked over the next two years to better understand how to intervene and relocate the species in the event of a drought, wildfire or flood, the researchers said.