A Murdoch University researcher who is investigating the threats to wild platypus populations in North West Tasmania is appealing to the general public to note their sightings of the iconic mammals in a survey.
Veterinarian, Dr James Macgregor, from the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences’ Conservation Medicine Program is gathering information about the distribution and abundance of platypuses in the Inglis River catchment.
The information collected in the survey will be related to the results of Dr Macgregor’s field study of the same area and will be compared with the findings of similar surveys completed elsewhere in Tasmania and mainland Australia.
‘Platypuses are very secretive animals and very little is known about their distribution and abundance at a catchment level,’ says Dr Macgregor, who is based in Tasmania.
‘We are looking for members of the public to let us know about their sightings of platypuses in 2012 only and also to pinpoint the water bodies where they’ve seen them, as well as the water bodies which don’t seem to have any platypuses.’
‘This will help us to understand more about this creature’s population density in the Inglis River catchment,’ he says.
Last year, Dr Macgregor and a team of researchers captured and microchipped around 100 of the semi-aquatic creatures in the Inglis River catchment; in all sub-catchments and at all levels of the catchment. They placed microchip readers throughout the waterways to detect them and other platypuses microchipped in previous studies to learn more about their movements. They aim to develop a comprehensive framework for researchers to use to properly assess the health of platypus populations all over Australia.
‘We know what many of the threats to platypuses are but we have little idea of how they actually impact platypus populations,’ says Dr Macgregor. ‘For example, the emerging platypus fungal disease mucormycosis, which has only been found in Tasmania, causes nasty skin lesions and can be fatal.’
Endemic to Eastern Australia, it’s hoped the study will find information on normal platypus health, such as their longevity and reproductive health, as well as the factors which lead to sickness and death.
Members of the public who would like to take part in the platypus survey will need to fill out a questionnaire which is available from Wynyard Veterinary Clinic, or by contacting Dr Macgregor at email@example.com.
Completed questionnaires are required by April 30, 2013.