By Stacey Leasca
Nov 22, 2021
IT’S BEEN A TOUGH few years for everyone. That’s why we all deserve to take a trip to Australia the minute borders open so we can play with a platypus or, even better, a paddle of them.
In early September, scientists at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), along with WWF-Australia, Taronga Zoo, and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, announced plans to reintroduce a few of these creatures back into the Royal National Park in Australia. It will be the first time a platypus has stepped foot in the park in almost 50 years.
“The iconic Australian mammal — famously known for its duck-like bill and egg laying ability — was last recorded in the park in the 1970s, when a devastating chemical spill on the highway washed into park streams and likely wiped out resident platypuses,” the group explained in a statement. “This loss is part of a worrying trend that has seen platypuses decline across much of its traditional range due to habitat destruction, river regulation, predation by invasive species, and an increased frequency and severity of droughts and fires due to climate change.”
The group’s aim, Dr. Gilad Bino, who is leading the project from UNSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science, explains, is to introduce 10 platypuses (a mix of males and females) back into the park late next year.
“We’ll monitor how they settle in, with the hopes [that] their population will start to grow and reestablish in the area and allow people a place to come and appreciate this unique animal,” Bino added. He noted that they will conduct this work by fitting the animals with acoustic tags so they can track their progress and any breeding activity.
Now, here’s the fun part: Once they’re released and borders open, you can visit the park to see if you can spot them, too. But if you want a more guaranteed viewing, you can always head to the Great Otway National Park in Victoria for a canoe tour through Lake Elizabeth. There, you can watch, listen, and observe these elusive little creatures with a Paddle With the Platypus Tour, an operator who claims to have a 95% success rate for spotting platypuses.
For those feeling a bit more adventurous, travel to the inland town of Finch Hatton in Queensland’s Mackay region and suit up for a Rainforest Scuba. The tour offers the chance to spot platypuses in their natural environment, as well as see turtles, rainbow-colored Gordian worms, three breeds of freshwater eels, and more.
Want to really immerse yourself? Book a stay at the historic Rathmore farm in Tasmania’s Central Highlands. The home, originally settled in the 1800s, invites guests to stay and relax in its “rustic chic” accommodations and take out its rowboats or kayaks for a self-guided tour on the lake to try and spy as many platypuses as they can.
Aside from the platypus, Australia is home some of world’s coolest and cuddliest creatures, so while you’re there, why not also swim with Minke whales, make like a Hemsworth and snuggle baby koalas, or head to an island for a selfie with quokkas?
See more on the important conservation work scientists are conducting to save the platypus here.