Litter mars platypus survey results again: spring 2015 surveys
05 February, 2016
The spring survey season of the Melbourne Water Urban Platypus Program was recently completed. This project, a collaboration between Melbourne Water and cesar (platypusSPOT), aims to understand and monitor the status of platypus populations around Melbourne. During spring, we conducted live-trapping surveys (capture and release) at 16 locations throughout Melbourne's five river catchments.
- The survey program captured a total of 21 platypuses (5 adult females, 9 adult males, 2 subadult males, 5 juvenile males).
- The overall catch rate was slightly below average.
- A 21 year-old male was captured at Belgrave, the oldest male recorded in the wild
- Two platypuses (10% of those captured) were discovered entangled in rubber bands. Thankfully, they were freed and released with only minor abrasions.
Although the catch rate (a measure of abundance) was slightly lower than expected, there are several possible reasons. Firstly, the majority of the surveys were conducted during late spring after the breeding period (generally late Aug to mid Oct in Victoria). By this time, many of the adult females are (hopefully) restricted to their burrows incubating and suckling young. At the same time, adult males stop roaming as widely as they do during breeding season as they are no longer searching for mates and defending territories. Both behaviours reduce the chance of platypuses encountering our nets and being captured. Secondly, Melbourne's rainfall during spring was very low resulting in very low water levels and flows in most streams. Platypuses tend to reduce their movements under these conditions and hang out more in the remaining deeper pools. Again, this reduces the chance of encountering our nets.
It is always disappointing to find our wildlife impacted by the rubbish we produce and discard. Unfortunately, it is an all too common occurrence in Melbourne's platypuses. Waterways are extremely effective at accumulating litter and platypuses are very susceptible to getting tangled in any enclosed loops. We can all play our part to help reduce the occurrences of these sad incidents by generating less waste, disposing of it correctly and recycling whenever possible. Cutting through any enclosed loops (e.g. rubber bands, plastic rings) before disposal can also help. By completing these small tasks and encouraging others to do the same we can reduce the amount of litter in waterways and help protect our amazing wildlife.
You can also report litterers in Victoria (www.epa.vic.gov.au/get-involved/report-litter).
Thanks to all our wonderful volunteers who helped out during the spring field season and to those who reported platypus sightings to platypusSPOT.
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