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The platypus is one of Australia’s most iconic native animals. With their duck-like bills, thick waterproof fur and webbed feet, platypuses are incredibly unique. They can be found in a wide variety of freshwater systems, from warm tropical streams in Queensland to freezing lakes in the Australian Alps, all the way down to Tasmania. Along with the echidna, they are a part of the monotreme family, a group of animals that possess the remarkable trait of being the only mammals in the world to lay eggs. Also known as the duck-billed platypus, these unusual animals usually live alone, making their homes in freshwater systems where they can hunt for shrimp, swimming beetles, water bugs and tadpoles. Platypuses are bottom feeders, meaning they forage by using their bill to dig through the river bed. They also have little cheek pouches in which they can store food to eat when back on dry land. Webbed limbs help the platypus move effortlessly through water, while their sturdy claws are used for burrowing and moving on land. When not foraging for food, platypuses rest in burrows, which they build in the banks of creeks, rivers or ponds. Young platypuses stay hidden in these burrows until they are four months old, at which point they cautiously emerge and begin to explore the water’s edge, gradually learning to swim. While they once thrived across much of eastern Australia, sadly, the platypus is facing localised extinction, particularly in the western part of their range. Climate change-induced events such as drought and bushfires, as well as habitat destruction from landclearing and fragmentation from river infrastructure, all threaten the survival of this extraordinary monotreme, leaving its future hanging in the balance in so many places it once lived.

© Goddard Photography/ iStock

Species bio

Common Name


Scientific Name

Ornithorhynchus anatinus

Indigenous Name janbang - Bundjalung (Qld) Djumulung - Yuin (NSW) maluŋgaŋ - Ngunnawal (NSW/ACT) biladurang (most common), wamul, dyiimalung, oornie and dungindany - Wiradjuri (Vic/NSW) Dulai wurrung - Woi wurrung (Vic) larila - Palawa kani (Tas)


Length: 40-50cm

Weight: 1-3kg

Distribution: Throughout bodies of freshwater in eastern Australia - from the Annan River in North Queensland to New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria & Tasmania.


Listed as Near Threatened, with populations decreasing (IUCN Red List).

Why the platypus matters

The platypus is very culturally significant to First Peoples. It is a totemic species that features in prominent Creation stories. These stories were shared by neighbouring language groups and would change as they travelled along river systems. It was also a vital food source for a number of language groups.

The platypus is the only remaining semi-aquatic monotreme in the world, and they are endemic to Australia, which means they are found nowhere else in the world. Unfortunately, due to the threats from climate change, habitat destruction and fragmentation, their numbers are declining. If we want to help this unique and iconic Australian species survive and thrive into the future, we must restore and protect their precious habitats to prevent the irreversible loss of platypuses from some of our rivers forever. The platypus will also need our help through re-establishing lost populations or reinforcing existing populations, ensuring they are strong, healthy and sustainable. Platypuses are a flagship species, which means when we protect their habitat from landclearing and unnecessary infrastructure, we are also supporting healthy rivers and waterways, vital for the thousands of species that rely on freshwater habitats across their range. You can help protect not only the platypus but thousands of other wildlife. Your generosity will be a symbol of your support for conservation, research and advocacy, ensuring this iconic animal remains in our waterways for generations to come.

Indigenous platypus art from Jirrbal, Wagedoegam, Ngapuhi & Scottish artist Beau Pennefather-Motlop. © WWF-Australia / Beau Pennefather Motlop (IG: @beau_motlop_art)


Burnie, Tasmania, Australia: March 2019: Platypus swimming in the river
Platypus swimming in the river © WWF-Australia / Lukas -

Did you know male platypuses are venomous?

Male platypuses have venomous spurs on their hind feet, which they use when defending their territory or facing predators. These spurs are connected to venom glands, and when threatened, the male can deliver a strong toxic blow by striking with the spur. While the venom isn’t lethal to humans, it causes immense pain and swelling. It's best to play it safe and admire the platypus from afar! Want to discover more interesting platypus facts? Check out eight fascinating facts about the platypus in this blog.

Read more

What we're doing to help the platypus

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 rewilding platypus populations to Sydney’s Royal National Park. The Royal National Park, Australia’s first national park and the second oldest in the world after Yellowstone National Park, once had platypuses swimming throughout its rivers and creeks. Unfortunately, the platypus had not been seen or detected within the Royal for more than 50 years. After a team of experts carefully assessed the suitability of the Royal’s waterways and undertook careful, thorough planning, a small population of platypuses were successfully released in the Royal National Park in 2023. The team has since kept a close eye on the population, and ongoing monitoring demonstrates that platypuses are doing well in their new environment. We’ve even found a juvenile platypus in recent surveys. This is a huge step forward in the conservation of the species, and the team will continue to monitor their progress to ensure the ongoing survival of this iconic animal in Australia’s oldest national park.

Rewilding the platypus to the Royal National Park is part of WWF-Australia’s bold and innovative Rewilding Australia mission, which aims to restore, regenerate and rewild nature. Click the button below to find out what else we’re doing to help the wildlife and wild places that make our country so special and diverse.

Kamilaroi artist Teagan Malcolm's depiction of the platypus (square).
Kamilaroi artist Teagan Malcolm's depiction of the platypus (square). © Teagan Malcolm / WWF-Australia


Proud Kamilaroi woman Teagan Malcom worked together with WWF-Australia to create this stunning Indigenous art wallpaper featuring the platypus.

Click through to view the artwork and download it to use as a Zoom or Teams background or wallpaper for desktop and mobile devices.

Download the wallpaper here

What you can do to help

  • Increase your impact and make a tax-deductible donation today. Your generosity will help plant trees, protect remaining forests and save our precious native animals like the platypus from extinction.
  • Increase your impact by adopting a platypus. Your symbolic adoption will help tackle the threats facing this unique monotreme, track their populations and conserve their beautiful habitats.
  • Sign the petition calling on our Australian Government to strengthen our national nature laws and save wildlife like koalas.