PlatypusThe Platypus

One of the most unique Australian native animals is arguably the platypus.  Few people are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these nocturnal creatures in the wild so it is a special experience indeed when we have a platypus in care at the Australian Wildlife Hospital.

The Hospital most commonly receives orphaned platypuses that are not weaned and would therefore be unable to fend for themselves in the wild.

The platypus is found in healthy streams and rivers throughout the eastern states of Australia, from tropical north Queensland to the southern alpine areas of Tasmania.
While the platypus is not considered a vulnerable species, loss of habitat is having a serious impact on platypus numbers in the wild – whether through natural causes (drought or flooding) or through human interference (pollution, agriculture, damming, drainage or other forms of development).  Illegal fishing practices are an additional threat.

Platypus facts:

•    The platypus and echidna are the world's ONLY living monotremes (egg-laying mammals).
•    Monotremes are the only mammals to have developed electro-reception, a sixth-sense that, like sharks and sting rays, allows them to detect electrical fields produced by the muscular contraction of their prey (particularly crayfish and yabbies).
•    The platypus is characterised by a duck bill and webbed feet - their front feet are used to dig their burrows and their hind legs excavate the soil.
•    The platypus is thought to have diverged from the echidna approximately 112 million years ago – this suggests the platypus is one of Australia’s earliest inhabitants.
•    Platypuses are one of only five known venomous mammals - male platypuses have spurs on the inside of their hind legs that produce a potent venom.  Whilst not life-threatening to humans, the venom can inflict an extraordinarily painful injury – watch out! 

Caring for Platypuses:

•    Raising an orphaned platypus is very involved – there’s around-the-clock feeding, which includes milk formula, and the administering of medication (if required) plus there’s swim time to allow for too.  With a platypus in care, our Hospital Manager Gail gets very little sleep!
•    All the platypuses the Hospital has cared for have had one thing in common - their favourite time of the day is swim time!   Watching them play in their rehabilitation pool and forage for mealworms and yabbies is a highlight for the Hospital staff.  As well as providing the platypuses with an important part of their dietary requirements this is also great enrichment as they get to practice the vital skills that will be crucial for their survival when they are returned to the wild.

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