Royal resurgence: Platypus returns to national park in New South Wales

The successful establishment of a new platypus colony in the Royal National Park signifies a ray of hope for the conservation of this iconic species.
Abdul-Rahman Oladimeji Bello
Australian Platypus
Australian Platypus


The Royal National Park outside Sydney, Australia, is welcoming back a long-lost resident: the enigmatic platypus.

After an absence of over half a century, a team of dedicated researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has successfully established a new platypus colony along the banks of the Hacking River. 

This incredible achievement is a testament to the unwavering efforts of the Platypus Conservation Initiative, a collaboration between UNSW's Centre for Ecosystem Science, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), and WWF-Australia.

Watch the UNSW video about the return below:

Platypi, also known as platypuses, are unique and fascinating semi-aquatic mammals native only to Australia. They belong to the monotreme family, which is a group of mammals that lay eggs instead of giving live birth. Platypi are the sole living representatives of their family and genus and are known for their distinct physical characteristics.

When European naturalists first encountered them in 1798, the platypus appeared extraordinary. Its amalgamation of unique features, including a duck-like beak, beaver tail, otter paws, mole-like fur, and venomous spurs, make it one of the most distinctive animals on our planet. 

Adding to their mystique, platypuses even glow a mesmerizing blue-green hue under black lights and rely on electrolocation to navigate their watery world.

Unfortunately, these incredible creatures have faced numerous challenges in recent years. Habitat destruction, pollution, and the introduction of predators like the red fox have contributed to declining platypus populations across their range in eastern Australia. 

Although they are not currently under immediate threat of extinction, breeding platypuses in captivity has proven to be an arduous task, with successful endeavors recorded in only one zoo outside Australia – the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Royal resurgence: Platypus returns to national park in New South Wales
Close up of Platypus Beak, Australia

Even in areas where they are relatively abundant, sightings of platypuses remain rare due to their elusive nature. Their preferred habitat in muddy waters makes them difficult to spot, as they hunt for crustaceans, insects, and worms. 

Conservation efforts

However, their absence from the Royal National Park since the 1970s raised concerns, potentially linked to a chemical spill that caused the local population to decline.

Taking action to rectify this situation, the Platypus Conservation Initiative embarked on an extensive monitoring program, carefully assessing pollution levels and prey availability in the Hacking River area. 

After years of meticulous research and preparation, the team recently introduced four female platypuses to their new home along the riverbanks. This initial release marks the first step towards reestablishing a thriving platypus population within the Royal National Park. 

In the coming months, six additional females and four males will join them, further bolstering the colony's chances of success.

The return of the platypus to this iconic national park is cause for celebration among scientists and conservationists worldwide. It serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of safeguarding our unique and precious wildlife. 

With each step taken towards their conservation, we come closer to ensuring that future generations will continue to marvel at the wonder of the platypus – a true testament to the remarkable diversity of life on Earth.

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