The Melbourne Water Urban Platypus Program aims to understand the status of platypus populations throughout the greater Melbourne region and identify any threatening processes.
cesar conducts bi-annual surveys at a number of permanent locations to monitor platypus population. The information gathered helps Melbourne Water to effectively manage Melbourne’s waterways and surrounding catchments to meet human requirements while maintaining aquatic ecosystem function and biodiversity.
Not surprisingly, due to their reliance on aquatic habitats, platypus abundance declined significantly at most surveyed locations during the recent drought (related article: A decline in population numbers for the evasive platypus).
It was anticipated that populations would start to recover with the return of higher rainfall over the past few years, resulting in better conditions for platypuses and more available habitat.
Surveys during spring 2012 yielded the second highest seasonal catch rate in the nine seasons that the current program has been running.
Surveys as well as public sightings also indicate platypuses are returning to a number of urban creeks where they haven’t been recorded for a number of years (related article: Platypus popping up in unexpected places).
While this is encouraging, results were highly variable between survey locations.
Catch rates in some areas were among the highest ever recorded, while in other areas abundance remains very low. This variation is likely reflective of differences in habitat quality and the impacts of other threatening processes acting at a local scale.
The Melbourne Water Urban Platypus Program will continue in autumn 2013 and researchers from cesar are hoping for another good result, including a high proportion of juveniles. This would provide strong evidence that Melbourne’s platypus populations are beginning the long road back to recovery.