21 Mar 2024


Scientists and researchers have discovered a juvenile platypus in the Royal National Park, less than a year after ten platypuses were returned to the park where they had been locally extinct for more than 50 years.

The female juvenile platypus was captured during a survey to assess the health of the translocated platypuses and confirm potential offspring.

Over three nights, researchers from UNSW Sydney, Taronga Conservation Society Australia and WWF Australia with the support of NSW National Parks and Wildlife laid nets in ‘hot spots’ along the waterways of the Royal National Park. They were placed in areas where acoustic trackers had indicated regular activity.

The little platypus is in excellent condition, weighs 850 grams and is estimated to be about six months old. Her age aligns with the end of the platypus breeding season and means she would have only just emerged from her burrow. She will be named by the local indigenous community.

Before she was returned to the river, researchers assessed her body condition, took several samples and fitted her with a microchip for future identification.

During the surveys, researchers also captured an adult female platypus named Delphi in the same area, who was also in good condition. Genetic analysis will confirm the juvenile’s parents, providing valuable insights into the breeding patterns and genetic health of the population.

Rob Brewster and Dr Gilad Bino perform a health check on a platypus in the Royal National Park. © UNSW

Ongoing monitoring and tracking have confirmed that the platypuses are still active, with a couple recently venturing beyond the detection range. The research team has not ruled out the possibility of more juveniles in the Royal National Park.

The waterways in the Royal National Park have been extensively monitored, with results indicating habitat, food availability and water quality is suitable for supporting healthy populations of platypuses.

The breeding success is a significant milestone for the program and testament to the health of the park. Further reintroductions are planned over the coming years.

The return of platypus to the Royal National Park was the first translocation program for platypus in NSW and aimed to re-establish a self-sustaining and genetically diverse platypus population. The platypuses were sourced from across NSW to ensure genetic diversity and brought to Taronga Zoo’s purpose-built platypus refuge facility before being released into the park.

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe said: “This is a wonderful discovery by our dedicated scientists and researchers, who have spent their nights patiently monitoring the Hacking River for signs these platypuses have survived in their new home.

“Not only are they surviving, but the discovery of little juvenile platypus shows they are thriving, which means the Royal National Park is in great shape. Invasive species are being dealt with and water quality is good.

“We have a biodiversity crisis in NSW. We can’t run away from that. We need to protect all the different species living within this unique landscape. Programs like this show us it is possible to bring animals back from the brink, and what we learn here will be applied across NSW in the future.

“This gives me great hope that our collaborations are working; that we can protect what’s left and restore what has been damaged. Thank you and congratulations to UNSW Sydney, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, WWF Australia and NSW National Parks and Wildlife.”

UNSW conservation scientist and project lead Dr Gilad Bino said: “Finding the juvenile platypus is a clear sign the reintroduced population is not just surviving but thriving, adapting well to their environment, and contributing to the genetic diversity and resilience of this iconic species.

“The success of this reintroduction underscores the vital role that targeted conservation actions, such as translocations, rescues, and reintroductions, play in the preservation of the platypus across its range.”

Taronga Conservation Society Australia Conservation Officer Dr Phoebe Meagher said: “The platypus is such an iconic and enchanting animal, but sadly is being hit from all sides – from climate change, droughts, bushfires and floods, through to habitat fragmentation and pollution.

“Being able to refine and learn from conservation translocations so we can step in and assist vulnerable populations in times of need is absolutely critical. “To have such success in the first-ever translocation of platypus in NSW fills me with hope for the future of this species”.

WWF-Australia Rewilding Program Manager Rob Brewster said: “Proof of successful breeding is about much more than the happy news of discovering a healthy juvenile platypus.

“This whole project embodies what ‘rewilding’ is. The community coming together and saying that we don’t accept species and ecosystem decline. That we can return those vital missing elements that make our world so interesting to us all”.