Researchers aim to find cause in platypus deaths

World News

AUSTRALIA (CBS Newspath) — One of Australia’s iconic wild animals is under threat. The platypus, famed for its bill and webbed feet, has seen its numbers drop by nearly a third in the last 30 years.

“The platypus is threatened for a number of reasons,” says Doctor Gilad Bino, an ecologist with the University of New South Wales.

Dr. Bino is part of a team of researchers on an expedition, stepping in to save the unusual mammal. The mission is off to a good start.

“So this looks like a platypus we haven’t caught before,” Bino says, as he examines a platypus the team captured recently.

Scientists are taking all sorts of measurements, along with blood and urine samples. They are also checking the platypus’s diet with a swab. “We kind of scoop up this mush from the platypus’s mouth,” says Bino.

The animals are being captured all across eastern Australia, in an effort to learn more about why they are dying off. Researchers say cattle have destroyed riverbanks where platypus build burrows to take shelter, and extreme weather events like wildfires and floods could also be to blame.

“I guess this study will really give us an indication into how platypus populations will respond to those events,” says Doctor Tahneal Hawke, a research assistant.

Conservationists in Australia announced plans this week to open the world’s first platypus sanctuary to help save the animal. The shelter will aim to breed and look after the creatures.

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