Platypus call Campbelltown waterways home, new research reveals

Ozfish volunteer Michael Guberina taking samples from the Georges River.

Ozfish volunteer Michael Guberina taking samples from the Georges River.

We already know the Campbelltown area is home to koalas, kangaroos and wallabies, but now there's evidence that platypus also call the region home.

Scientific testing of water samples from the Georges River catchment in Campbelltown has indicated that platypus (which is actually a correct plural form for the monotreme, not platypi; a common misconception) are present in the river locally.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) testing, a new technique, has been conducted over the past new months as part of the Platypus Pals project.

The evidence is not the first confirmation of a platypus in Macarthur - just a few years ago, back in 2018, a Camden Council employee captured footage of a platypus in the Nepean River at Camden.

As part of Platypus Pals, more than 25 volunteers helped to collect samples at 30 sites on the Georges River during September and February.

The preliminary results triggered more focused testing of areas to determine key hotspots of the platypus population and provide a more conclusive result.

Campbelltown mayor George Brticevic said these findings were an opportunity for locals to pay more attention to the health of the area's waterways.

"Confirming the presence of this elusive mammal in the river is reassurance of the overall health of the river and would drive more actions to protect these unique Australian animals," he said.

"I would like to thank everyone who volunteered to get the samples and work to support this important project, particularly Dr Tom Grant from the University New South Wales who helped prepare the program."

The project is funded by $20,000 from the Communities Environment Program through Macarthur Federal MP Dr Michael Freelander.

Dr Freelander said he hoped the project would lead to even more conservation efforts.

"I am proud to support this project and I thank the wonderful team members of Campbelltown Council and volunteers who assisted in this project," he said.

"Macarthur is home to some truly unique species of flora and fauna.

"It is imperative that we adequately protect our diverse local species, such as our local platypus population.

"It is my hope that through projects such as this, we can help to conserve Macarthur's flora and fauna and ensure our future generations can also enjoy them."

The second round of results are expected to be available in the coming weeks.

Clean and healthy waterways are vitally important to sustain a local platypus population.

Platypus need to eat up to a third of their body weight in water bugs each day, and the healthier a waterway, the more water bugs on offer for the animal to eat.

The platypus is one of the only species of monotreme in the world. The other, the echidna, is also found only in Australia. It is also unique in that it is amphibious - suited to life both in the water and on land.

A monotreme is, similar to a marsupial, a mammal which does not give birth to developed young. Instead, monotremes lay eggs, whereas marsupials (like koalas and kangaroos) nurture their young in a pouch until they are developed enough to move outside the pouch.

Platypus are only found in eastern Australia, and are known to be quite elusive. They can live up to 17 years in zoo conservation, according to Taronga Zoo, but typically live about four to eight years in the wild.

The Taronga Conservation Society also reports that platypus can be dated back to the dinosaur era, with a 122 million-year old fossil found in south-eastern Australia.

You can see a platypus in person at Taronga Zoo.