Listen: Richard Kingsford in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty.
A national risk assessment has suggested platypus declines of up to 30% across its range since European settlement, with localised declines and extinctions increasingly reported. “We have great concerns about the future survival of this unique species,” says project leader Professor Richard Kingsford.
Mounting evidence of localised declines for the iconic platypus has raised ongoing concerns among scientists, nearing the end of a 3-year national survey.
The UNSW-led Australian Research Council funded project has compiled a comprehensive database of the distribution and abundance of platypus over the last two centuries, combining this with data from systematic capture surveys to conduct a national risk assessment for the species.
“We have great concerns about the future survival of this unique species,” says project leader Professor Richard Kingsford, director of the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science.
“The national risk assessment has suggested declines of up to 30% across its range since European settlement, with localised declines and extinctions increasingly reported.
“Synergistic threats to platypus populations include river regulation and flow disruption, increasing agricultural land use, pollution, and the capture of platypus in fishing and yabby nets, all of which are contributing to these declines across its range,” he says.
The inclusion of historical data has suggested a significant underestimation for platypus declines and has shown that perceptions of healthy numbers has changed over time.
Given sightings of platypus are rare, people perceive captures or sightings of just a few platypuses to be indicative of a healthy population, while historical records suggest numbers far exceeded our current observations.
Researchers expect to publish the risk assessment in the coming months. The research is supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, in partnership with Taronga Conservation Society.
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