Droughts and other manifestations of global warming are putting increasing pressure on the platypus population to the point of pushing them towards extinction, researchers warn in a study published Monday. This unique mammal has already lost 40% of its historic habitat in eastern Australia due to droughts, land use planning, pollution or the construction of dams that fragment its dwellings, according to these Centre for Ecosystem Sciences at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
The dark future of the platypus, an “almost” endangered species
They estimate that, if current threats continue, platypus populations could collapse by 47-66% over the next 50 years. Taking into account the deterioration of climatic conditions linked to warming, populations could even have declined by 73% by 2070.
The platypus is currently considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a “near-threatened” species. But UNSW researchers believe that the deterioration in river conditions due to lower rainfall and heat waves darkens the horizon for the species.
“These hazards expose the platypus to localized extinctions because they will be unable to repopulate certain areas,” says Gilad Bino, lead author of the study. According to the researchers, there is an urgent need for a national risk study on the population of these mammals to assess whether the species should be considered “vulnerable” and whether protection strategies should be put in place to “minimize the risk of extinction.”
Platypus is endemic to eastern Australia
The study estimates that the total population has dropped by 50% since Europeans colonized the island two centuries ago. A previous study published in November 2018 reported a 30% decrease over this period and estimated the population at 200,000 individuals.
The study is being published at a time when the country is facing very serious forest fires, linked to drought and heatwaves. Fires that have already reduced to ashes an area larger than Portugal. A nocturnal, ferocious animal, the platypus, one of the few mammals that lay eggs, is now only found in eastern Australia. It feeds on worms, insects and small crustaceans.
With a duck-billed mouth, thick fur, beaver-like legs, and tail, it is harmless that the legs of adult males are covered with stings whose paralyzing venom can be very painful for Man.