Call for Goulburn Broken platypus watchers

By John Lewis

Wildlife experts are calling for a citizen army of platypus spotters to help keep track of the ‘‘near threatened’’ native animal in rivers across the Goulburn Broken catchment.

Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority project officer Sue Kosch said the conservation status of the platypus had now been recognised as ‘‘near threatened’’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

‘‘Despite being a much-loved Australian animal, surprisingly little is known about how platypus populations are currently faring,” Ms Kosch said.

‘‘It is vital that we get a good idea of how this special species is faring in our region so that we can plan appropriate conservation action.’’

Ms Kosch said the platypus was also a good indicator of the environmental qualities of waterways.

The GBCMA is working on the project with the Australian Platypus Conservancy, which is about to launch a monitoring network with a dedicated website and app to promote volunteer participation.

APC biologist Geoff Williams said platypus numbers had declined across many decades as a result of environmental degradation and altered flows.

‘‘Human activities also had an impact, especially through the use of opera-house yabby traps and other fishing nets that kill platypus,’’ Mr Williams said.

He said monitoring platypus numbers was a key part of future planning, and that getting local communities involved in the Australian Platypus Monitoring Network was a great way to help the species.

‘‘It doesn’t take a huge time commitment — you don’t have to watch for platypus every day; once or twice a week is fine on average, though you can also certainly look more often if you want,’’ he said.

‘‘Many APMN participants fit their platypus scanning sessions into other day-to-day activities, such as taking a walk, biking to and from work, or checking a stock pump.’’

Mr Williams said volunteers who were able to monitor on their private land were particularly welcome.

APC platypus experts will present free information and training sessions at the following locations:

Benalla: Platypus talk — Friday, February 22, 7pm at Moira-Benalla Club, 1 Benalla St, Benalla. Training workshop — Saturday, February 23 at 4pm at Lake Benalla.

Yea: Platypus talk and training workshop — Thursday, February 28, 2pm at the Yea Council Chambers, 15 The Semi Circle, Yea.

Alexandra: Platypus talk and training workshop — Thursday, February 28, 7pm at Alexandra Council Chambers, Perkins St, Alexandra.

Seymour: Platypus talk — Friday, March 1, 7pm at Chittick Park Community Place, Chittick Park, Pollard St, Seymour. Training workshop — Saturday, March 2 at 4pm (Goulburn River, Seymour).

The sessions are free but registration is essential.

RSVP to Andrea Muskee by phoning 58227707 or email andream@ by 5pm Tuesday, February 19 for the Benalla sessions and by 5pm Tuesday, February 26 for the Yea, Alexandra and Seymour sessions.

The project is funded through the Victorian Government’s Environmental Water Program.