25 Sep 2019

Brisbane's platypuses could vanish before we even knew they were there

Brisbane could be in danger of losing its small population of platypuses before many people even know they’re there.

Despite the main range of the elusive monotreme being in Australia’s south-east, they are found along the length of the east coast, including in south-east Queensland.

The species’ conservation level is listed as Low Concern by the Queensland environment department, however a wildlife management group says the number of platypuses in the region has dropped sharply.

Wildlife Queensland ecologist Tamielle Brunt said while it was very hard to get exact figures, there were probably only about 20 of the animals in the greater Brisbane area.

“We can certainly see a change in their distribution, and that’s what has flagged us to try to find out what is actually happening in the region, and we are still seeing them in areas where they used to be seen,” Ms Brunt said.

Wildlife Queensland relies on local community groups to provide it with sighting data, and backs that up with catch-and-release surveys as well as a technique that can test waterways for platypus DNA, giving an idea of their range.

Ms Brunt said based on those methods, the animals had definitely vanished from a number of areas on Brisbane’s northside where they had previously been found.

“They used to have historical sightings in the Enoggera Creek area and the area around Cabbage Tree Creek,” she said.

“We’ve completed our environmental DNA study there and are confident to confirm they’re no longer in those creek systems.”

Increasing urbanisation was one cause for the declining platypus populations, with greater developments in areas around the creek systems “breaking up” potential habitat areas.

That in turn creates isolated populations of the animals, which are then more susceptible to inbreeding and disease.

Poor water management was also cited by Ms Brunt as a factor, with many of the habitat areas no longer providing the permanent pool conditions required by the animals.

“Unfortunately this will result in platypuses being forced out and trying to find water elsewhere, but when it is such a fragmented waterway they’ve got a lot to go through,” she said.

That was likely the reason for one of the animals being found in a backyard pool of a home in Bridgeman Downs in Brisbane’s north earlier this year, she said.

The warning from Wildlife Queensland comes after recent research revealed that national platypus numbers were declining faster than previously thought.

Ms Brunt, who is doing her PhD in ecology focusing on platypuses, said more needed to be done to protect the small population in south-east Queensland before they disappeared forever.

“The fact that we aren’t actively keeping tabs on them is a concern,” she said.

“I think it’s quite scary the fact they’re an animal that is so elusive and they could disappear right under our noses and people wouldn’t know.”

SOURCE ; https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/brisbane-s-platypuses-could-vanish-before-we-even-knew-they-were-there-20190820-p52j0a.html

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