Platypus are facing a silent extinction. Take action now to protect them and their habitat!
The platypus is one of Australia’s most iconic native animals, but it is threatened with local extinction. As a part of our mission to Regenerate Australia, WWF-Australia is at the forefront of research on restoring, protecting and rewilding platypus populations to safeguard their future in our waterways.
The platypus is one of the world's most unique animals. Along with the echidna, they are the only mammals on the planet that lay eggs.
The platypus usually lives alone, making its home in freshwater systems. When they’re not looking for shrimp, swimming beetles, water bugs and tadpoles to eat, they spend their time in their burrows, which they build in the banks of creeks, rivers or ponds.
The platypus once thrived across the eastern Australian mainland and Tasmania. But the constant threat of bushfires, deforestation, drought, pollution and predators means the future of this extraordinary monotreme lies in the balance. Worryingly, they are now at risk of becoming locally extinct in Sydney's Royal National Park. In areas such as the Murray-Darling Basin, platypus populations have declined by almost 31% over the past 30 years. And in some urban catchments near Melbourne, their numbers have decreased by as much as 65%. This decline cannot continue. We must take action today. By protecting the platypus , we will safeguard the livelihoods of so many of Australia’s other incredible animals. Scroll down to see the amazing work going in to rewild this iconic species.
Find out more about our rewilding work.
What WWF-Australia is doing
WWF-Australia has collaborated with UNSW's Platypus Conservation Initiative, Taronga Conservation Society Australia and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to embark on a three-year project dedicated to restoring and rewilding platypus populations in Sydney’s Royal National Park. This collaborative team of expert researchers, scientists, rangers and ecologists will survey for platypus in and around Australia’s oldest national park. We will look for areas with dense platypus populations and locate appropriate areas to rewild the species. After they have been translocated, our team will continue to monitor their progress to future-proof their survival. Rewilding the platypus is part of WWF-Australia’s bold and innovative Regenerate Australia mission, which aims to regenerate the wildlife and landscapes that make our country so special and diverse. There’s no time to waste. Australian Nature Needs our Australian Nature. The platypus and the magnificent natural world where they build their home is counting on us.
Why it matters
The platypus is a flagship species, making them a critical part of healthy river ecosystems. Sighting just a few in a water source was once thought to be a sign of a healthy population, as platypus are to rivers what koalas are to forests. But alarmingly, it’s believed their numbers today are a fraction of what they once were. This is because their river homes are threatened from every side – dried out by droughts, destroyed by bushfires and deforestation, and degraded by pollution and dams. We must restore and protect their precious habitats now. If we don’t, platypus populations could disappear from some of our rivers forever. By supporting our rewilding the platypus project, you are helping to safeguard the future of not only the platypus – but thousands of other wildlife too. Your generosity will be a symbol of your support for conservation and animal advocacy, ensuring the iconic platypus remains in our freshwater sources forever.
The platypus has a duck-like bill, a broad, flattened tail, and thick, waterproof fur for warmth. They have webbed limbs to help them move through water and strong claws for burrowing and moving on land.
Listed as Near Threatened, with populations decreasing (IUCN Red List).
Bushfires are devastating for the platypus, drying out the rivers and river vegetation where they swim and hunt, destroying the riverbanks where they make their burrows, and clogging their water sources with ash and sediment, which reduces their food sources. After the catastrophic bushfires that ravaged the Australian landscape in 2019-20, it’s estimated that platypus populations declined by an alarming 14-18% in the nine months that followed.
Landclearing, often for farming, is one of the biggest threats to the platypus, putting pressure on their freshwater ecosystems and leaving them with nowhere safe to go. Since 1990, this has seen platypus habitats decline by almost 23% – an area nearly three times the size of Tasmania.
Drought is one of the platypus’ most deadly threats, shrinking their habitats by drying up their watery homes. This forces them to spend more time on land, making them more vulnerable to predators and more susceptible to heatstroke. During the 2017-19 extreme drought across eastern Australia, conservation groups and wildlife rescue groups received many reports of distressed and sick platypus. And as droughts become more frequent and severe, this will happen more often. In fact, it’s predicted that droughts could reduce platypus populations by up to 73% in the next 50 years.
Pollution is a severe threat to the freshwater systems that are so important to the platypus’ survival. This includes rubbish dumped into waterways, such as barbed wire fencing and fishing lines, which can cause injury or death if the platypus becomes tangled in them. They can also become stuck in pipes or hydroelectric turbines in streamsAnother threat comes from chemical pollutants, such as fertilisers, oil, paint and pesticides, which can be lethal. Platypus can also be affected by pharmaceuticals that pass untreated through water plants and into waterways.
What you can do to help
- Support WWF-Australia’s rewilding the platypus project by making a donation to ensure the future of the species.
- Sign up to Regenerate Australia and lead the way to restoring our environment. One signature = one tree planted!
- Safeguard our precious natural world by recycling and using less plastic, which will help keep waterways clear for the platypus.