Conservation status

The platypus is a difficult animal to census or survey: burrow entrances are generally well hidden and the animals rarely leave evidence of their activities in the forms of tracks, scats, or food scraps. Live-trapping nets are time consuming to set and must be monitored closely through the night. Accordingly, knowledge of how the species is faring is sketchy in many parts of its range. In broad terms, it is known that the platypus remains fairly common along some waterways, but

The bill of a duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is fleshy and covered by soft, sensitive skin. (Photo by © Peter Marsack/Lochman Transparencies. Reproduced by permission.)
A duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) exits the water. (Photo by Mitsuaki Iwago/Minden Pictures. Reproduced by permission.)

has declined or vanished from others. The species is fully protected by law throughout its range.

In most areas, the key factor limiting platypus numbers is likely to be the quality of habitat. Waterways supporting large platypus populations generally have plenty of trees and smaller plants growing on the banks; a varied array of pools, shallow riffles, rocks, and woody materials in the channel; and reliably flowing fresh water throughout the year. All of these attributes favor the small aquatic invertebrates that in turn feed the platypus. Conversely, factors implicated in the decline of platypus populations include erosion, overgrazing by rabbits and livestock, altered water flow regimes, overclearing of native vegetation, and the systematic removal of logs and large branches from the channel.

Besides habitat degradation, the platypus is vulnerable to drowning in nets and traps set illegally for fish and crayfish. Many individuals also die each year after becoming

The duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) lives in a freshwater habitat, but also forages on land. (Photo by Dr. Lloyd Glenn Ingles © California Academy of Sciences. Reproduced by permission.)

entangled in garbage such as abandoned loops of nylon fishing line.

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