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Help Save The Platypus

Help Save The Platypus

Citizen monitoring project launched in Benalla

Residents of Benalla are being asked to help monitor the local platypus population.

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Benalla has one of the best platypus populations in regional Victoria, with good numbers seen in Lake Benalla and the waterways flowing into it.

But the species has now been listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and so it is vital to keep track of how populations are holding up over time.

"Platypus populations have declined in many places, which is a bit of an alarm bell," explains Australian Platypus Conservancy biologist Geoff Williams.

"This is a very special species and we really need to get to grips with what's going on. One of the key things we need to do is find out about how platypus populations are faring in different river systems."

That's why the APC is holding free volunteer information sessions on Saturday and Sunday, where interested volunteers will receive practical training in monitoring. Mr Williams says the sessions will last about 90 minutes, and volunteers will get to go out, try to spot some platypus and start recording data. Attendees will also learn about the threats that platypus face.

"Platypus have been under pressure for a long time," he explains, referencing land clearing, drought and changes to waterways.

"But over and above, we don't help as humans by some of the direct pressures we put on them. A lot of platypus get killed in illegal fishing nets, and then the other big killer, even in regional towns surprisingly, is litter."

However, he says that they are quite a resilient species, and can be found in many more locations than you would think.

"Not only is there a good population in Benalla, we also get platypus regularly in Wangaratta and Bright. In fact, most of the towns in north-east Victoria have platypus populations quite close to them," he says.

"There's a number of myths about platypus, and one of them is that they can only be found way off in the bush, in pristine habitat away from people, and that simply isn't true. The platypus are close to people, and that's why visual monitoring from interested volunteers actually works, if people learn the techniques."

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, interested volunteers will need to register, by emailing platypus.apc@westnet.com.au. If you can't make it along to the session but want to be involved, head to platypusnetwork.org.au to find out more about monitoring in your local area.

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