By Jess Baker
After a weekend of surveying Cambanoora Gorge, a local group has discovered a surprisingly large paddle of platypus is living among Killarney residents.
Organised through Killarney Bushcare, group member Barbara George-Jaeggli said the survey of platypus at the Gorge on Sunday 5 September was the first of its kind and produced exciting results.
“We had 16 different pairs of people sitting at different places along the river at the upper Condamine, going into Cambanoora Gorge,” Barbara said.
“We ended up seeing 15 different platypus.”
Barbara said that while the group’s findings indicated the local environment was habitable for platypus, changes will have to be made to increase their chance of breeding success and of survival.
“(Our concerns are) they’re secretive and shy animals, so disturbance is something they don’t like,” she said.
“Increased traffic from four wheel drives, and the sediment they bring up, is a concern.”
She said drought was also a major threat to local platypus as although the Condamine River never used to dry up, in the last 25 years she had seen it nearly stop running two times.
Climate change and people pumping out of the river were also listed as two of the group’s biggest concerns.
“We really want to raise awareness, not only because they’re threatened, but also because they’re such a nice thing to have in our midst,” Barbara said.
She said Killarney Bushcare would like to see traffic around the Gorge regulated, and Condamine River Road used less by four wheel drives and more by mountain bikes and the like.
“We’re also looking in to getting some funding to do a conservation project,” she said.
More than 40 people attended an information session with Killarney Bushcare and Platypus Watch at Killarney Senior Citizens Hall on Saturday 4 September to learn about protecting platypus, which are considered a near-threatened species.
Barbara said she and the Killarney Bushcare team were amazed at attendance on the day and locals’ interest in the topic.
“We would like to repeat the survey, make it every six months, and make it a real community initiative,” she said.
She said tracking numbers at the Gorge more frequently will help the group understand the threats and challenges platypus currently face in Killarney, so that they can work to eliminate them.