Help track animal

By Seymour Telegraph

Seymour and Yea locals can get involved in a citizen science project which aims to track platypus numbers in local waterways.

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority is working on the platypus project with the Australian Platypus Conservancy.

The platypus has been recognised as ‘nearly threatened’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Goulburn Broken CMA project officer Sue Bosch said that not much was known about platypus populations in the wild.

‘‘Despite being a much-loved Australian animal, surprisingly little is known about how platypus populations are currently faring,’’ she 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. The platypus is also an excellent indicator of the environmental qualities of our waterways, so monitoring its numbers also helps with assessing changes in the health of our rivers and creeks.’’

The project is part of the Australian Platypus Monitoring Network which is about to be launched by the Australian Platypus Conservancy.

It will rely on volunteers to record their sightings on a website.

Volunteers will receive training and mentoring as part of the project.

APC biologist Geoff Williams said platypus numbers had declined over time because of environmental degradation and altered water flows.

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

‘‘Fortunately, there is now a huge opportunity to bring the platypus back. Considerable work is being done by CMAs and other agencies to rehabilitate river habitats and improve environmental flows.

‘‘There is a growing public awareness of the risks to platypus posed by litter and illegal fishing activities. The Victorian Government’s ban on enclosed yabby traps from mid-2019 will save the lives of many platypus.’’

Mr Williams said monitoring platypus numbers was a key part of future planning.

‘‘Getting the local community involved in the APCN will be a great way of helping 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.

‘‘Similarly, a standard monitoring session requires just five to 10 minutes of observation time at each site. Many APCN 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. Volunteers who are able to monitor on their private land are particularly welcome.’’

Free information session and training sessions will be presented by platypus experts on the following days:

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

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

Registration is essential.

Anyone who is interested in joining the project must RSVP to Andrea Muskee by phoning 58227707 or email [email protected] by 5pm on February 26.