Platypuses are one of Australia’s most ridiculously adorable residents. With their duck bills, little flippers and all-round slightly magical quality, the sighting of one of them in the wild is, these days, akin to a small miracle. Now, however, the chance of Sydneysiders getting to see one of these cuties IRL has suddenly become (marginally) more likely.
The curious sight of this iconic semi-aquatic monotreme was once a common occurrence in the rivers of the Royal National Park on the traditional lands of the Dharawal. However, following a chemical spill on the Princes Highway in the 1970s, these gorgeous creatures disappeared for good – becoming locally extinct in the nation’s oldest national park for the last 50 years.
Now, in 2023, five female platypuses have been reintroduced to the Hacking River in the Royal National Park just an hour from Sydney city, with a group of males set to follow in close pursuit. This very good news is the product of a collaboration between the University of New South Wales, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, the World Wildlife Fund and Taronga Conservation Society. The project aims to re-establishing a wild sanctuary for one of Australia’s most endangered animals.
Re-introducing the platypus to its historical habitat is important for so many reasons. With the platypuses returning, the dream is that so too will the health of their native ecosystem in the Royal National Park – while also ensuring that platypuses will survive the effects of climate change, with these delicate creatures incredibly susceptible to drought, habitat loss and environmental changes.
As it stands, the many people involved in this project will be closely monitoring the brave platypus pioneers who have undertaken this big adventure. The animals have all been fitted with transmitters, will get veterinary checks, and will be closely watched to see if they survive (and hopefully, multiple) in the wild.
So, Sydney. Cross your fingers and start manifesting. We want these platypuses back in town.