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A platypus swims in a river, an autumn leaf floats beside it.
Photograph: Meg Jerrard/Unsplash

Platypuses are being reintroduced to the Royal National Park for the first time in 50 years

The native species will return to the area where it once thrived

Written by
Alannah Maher

The curious sight of a duck-billed, semi-aquatic monotreme was once a common occurrence in the rivers of the Royal National Park on the traditional lands of the Dharawal. Sadly, platypuses have not been spotted in the area since the 1970s, but this is about to change. Keep an eye out for these web-footed friends on your future hikes – an initial group of 10 platypuses (a mixture of males and females) will be released into the National Park in the first half of 2022.

Once the initial platypus population is established, the National Parks and Wildlife Service will also be investing in public viewing infrastructure, which will include specialist boardwalks and viewing platforms that are designed to have minimal impact on platypus habitats.

Researchers will be keeping an eye on the released platypuses and will fit them with acoustic tags so they can track their progress and any breeding activity for up to two years. The team will also survey other platypus populations across the state to determine where the species is doing well and where animals could be sourced for reintroduction into the Royal National Park.

The project is a collaborative effort from UNSW's Centre for Ecosystem Science, World Wildlife Fund for Nature–Australia (WWF), Taronga Conservation Society Australia, and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

According to a statement from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, platypus populations have been in decline across much of their traditional range due to river mismanagement, habitat destruction, predation by invasive species, and an increased frequency and severity of droughts and fires due to climate change.

"The platypus is to our rivers what koalas are to our forests, but there's a risk they will disappear if we don't take bold steps to reverse their decline," says WWF–Australia's Rewilding Program manager, Rob Brewster. "This project will combine rigorous scientific monitoring with on-ground action to return platypus to rivers they once called home."

Nature is healing, adorable native bush rats are reclaiming this reserve in Manly.

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