Platypus Research in Tasmania
Scientific research and community engagement were
conducted in Tasmania from November 2007 to November 2009 under the
umbrella of the Platypus Partnership Program.
focused on addressing fundamental gaps in the understanding of
mucormycosis disease, including the contemporary distribution and
prevalence of the disease, its impact on populations, and the mechanisms
of disease transmission, and involved researchers within the Department
of Primary Industries and Water, the Universities of Tasmania, Sydney
and Adelaide, and the Centre for Environmental Stress and Adaptation
Research. Community engagement initiatives were aimed at raising
awareness of platypus conservation efforts and encouraging public
reporting of healthy and apparently ulcerated platypus.
extensive series of field trapping surveys was undertaken to assess the
health and disease status of platypus populations in catchments across
Disease prevalence (the infected proportion of the
population) appears to have declined since the mid- to late-1990s.
Platypus populations that were affected by the disease in the mid- to
late-1990s still persist, although it is unclear whether their abundance
has declined or not. Ulcerated platypuses captured in this study were
from the Meander, Brumbys-Lake, South Esk and North Esk catchments.
Click on the map for the current and historic distribution of
mucormycosis affected platypus in Tasmania.Mucormycosis is now less
prevalent than it was in the mid 1990s suggesting it is currently having
less impact on platypus populations than it did historically.
results from the Platypus Partnership Program and conservation options
for the Tasmanian platypus were discussed in a forum at the project's
conclusion. The abstracts and workshop booklet from that forum are available and provide a summary of the project's research findings.
Scientific publications produced by the Platypus Partnership Program
- Gust, N., and Griffiths, J. (2009). Platypus mucormycosis and its conservation implications. Australasian Mycologist 28(1), 1-8.
- Gust, N., Griffiths, M., Driessen, M., Philips, A., Stewart, N. & Geraghty, N. (2009). Distribution, prevalence and persistence of mucormycosis in Tasmanian platypuses (Ornithorhynchus anatinus). Australian Journal of Zoology 57, 245-54
- Furlan, E., Umina, P., Mitrovski, P., Gust, N., Griffiths, J., and Weeks, A. (2010) High levels of genetic divergence between Tasmanian and Victorian populations of platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, as revealed by microsatellite loci. Conservation Genetics, 11, 319-323.
- Gust, N., and Griffiths, J. (2011). Platypus body size condition and population structure in Tasmanian river catchmentsL: variability and potential mucormycosis impacts. Wildlife Research, 38(4), 271-289.
The Platypus Management Plan
outlines key short and long term management actions, and monitoring required to ensure healthy individuals and populations persist throughout the State.
The management actions address the most significant threats to Tasmanian platypus populations. They include measures to reduce road-kill, reduce predation, reduce rubbish and pollution in waterways, reduce the introduction and impact of alien species, and manage disease within populations. In addition management actions outline responsible land management and sustainable land use practices, and responsible fisheries and angling. To monitor the health and status of platypus populations, the public are encouraged to report sightings of healthy and sick platypuses (link here to "Report Platypus Sightings"). Repeat platypus trapping surveys will also be undertaken.
The success of management actions depends on the response of community members and government alike. We all have a role to play to maintain healthy waterways and the persistence of healthy platypus populations into the future.