Melbourne Water Urban Platypus Program: autumn 2015 part 2
16 June, 2015
The autumn survey season of the Melbourne Water Urban Platypus Program was recently completed, thankfully before the weather turned too cold, and we're now back in the office writing up results. This project is a collaboration between Melbourne Water and cesar (platypusSPOT) to understand the status of platypus populations around Melbourne. During autumn, we conducted live-trapping surveys (capture and release) at 16 locations throughout Melbourne's five river catchments.
Now that we've had a chance to catch up on some sleep, we've had a look at the results. As usual, it's a bit of a mixed bag but there are encouraging signs. Here are some of the key findings:
- The survey program captured a total of 33 platypuses (11 adult females, 7 juvenile females, 9 adult males, 1 subadult male, 5 juvenile males).
- Overall catch rate (a measure of abundance) from the core locations was about 15% higher than the recent seasonal average.
- The proportion of juveniles (36%) was higher than the recent autumn average (juveniles emerge from their mother's burrow and become independent during autumn).
- Results varied between locations with relatively good outcomes at Sunbury, Labertouche, Lower Tarago, Woori Yallock and Werribee but poor results at Mullum Mullum, Lilydale, Belgrave, Lysterfield and Plenty Gorge.
- Unfortunately, 3 platypuses were found entangled in litter (melbourne's-dirty-(and-lethal)-problem).
The results from this season indicate Melbourne's platypus populations are slowly recovering from the serious declines observed during the recent drought. Not surprisingly, areas with higher habitat quality are showing better signs of recovery. However, many populations remain highly vulnerable with fragmentation a key conservation issue that is not easily addressed. Platypuses will be further challenged by the dry El Nino conditions predicted for eastern Australia this year but hopefully this will only be for a short time.
Thanks to everyone who helped out during another busy field season. We hope you enjoyed the experience of getting up close with one of nature's most fascinating creatures. Already looking forward to getting back out there again in spring.
Your sightings of platypuses are important. Share them at platypusSPOT.org.
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