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Duck-Billed Platypus: Ornithorhynchidae

Platypus And People

The platypus, almost as much as the kangaroo, has become a national symbol of Australia and of the odd, weird, and outright bizarre creatures native to that continent and country. The platypus is a symbol, as well, for the unique, the quirky, The world's first platypus twin puggles (baby platypus) born in captivity are shown together for the first time in 2003. (AFP PHOTO/Torsten BLACKWOOD. Reproduced by permission.) and the unexpected in nature, which makes the animal and its behavior a subject of curiosity and science education.

Platypus were nearly wiped out by hunting, into the early twentieth century, for their fine, soft, waterproof fur. Nevertheless, humans, out of carelessness and ignorance, continue to make life miserable for the platypus. The animals become entangled in fishing hooks and lines, and in fishing nets; such encounters end in drowning or in the scarring of the bill. Tasmania's platypuses are being impacted by infection from an introduced fungus and by chemical pollutants.

Well-meaning people may try to rescue a platypus that is wandering and seems to be lost, a move that often proves harmful to people and platypus. A wild platypus captured by humans will probably die of shock. The rescuers may end up with days of pain and misery from a platypus sting. Wildlife education in Australia stresses leaving lost animals alone and calling a local office of the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage so that someone can professionally capture and care for a lost platypus.

Recently, platypus have started invading human-made urban waterways in Melbourne, Victoria, while disappearing from some wild areas, for reasons still not understood. The urban platypus most likely have been forced into artificial waterways due to destruction of their habitat by development, and there is enough live platypus food in the waterways to feed a platypus population. The Australian Platypus Conservancy and the Melbourne Water Department together have surveyed and taken counts of the urban platypus populations. They found that platypus in the waterways were as healthy and well-fed as those in the wild, while some individual platypus from the waterways have migrated and re-colonized river banks with improved habitat.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsDuck-Billed Platypus: Ornithorhynchidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Platypus And People, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT