Human Trash Is Causing Harm To Platypuses

We often hear about the dangers of litter and how it harms the little creatures, along with many bigger creatures as well. The news is often confined to animals that live in the ocean, but it seems as if there are some freshwater animals that are suffering as well.

This includes the duckbilled platypus, which is one of the more unusual animals that share the earth with us.

The duckbilled platypus spends a lot of its time searching for food around rivers, especially on the riverbeds. They are a relatively small animal, so if there are loops of garbage, such as from plastic, metal, or rubber, they could easily slip through it and get entangled.

Photo: flickr/PsJeremy

The Journal Australian Mammalogy reported on this danger.

Live-trapping surveys take place with these and other types of animals to ensure that they are not experiencing any serious problems. When these surveys took place in Victoria, Australia, they found 54 platypuses that were entangled. It didn’t all happen in the same way, some of them were entangled around the shoulder and others around the torso, neck, or jaw.

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It turns out that this was not a localized issue. There were also reports that came in from Melbourne that spoke about a much higher rate of entanglement compared to Victoria. This is especially true among first-year juveniles and females, which tend to be on the smaller side.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A number of different items were removed from the platypuses, including some that you might expect, such as fishing lines and elastic hair ties. Some unusual items also caused entanglements, such as a hospital identification band and a food jar seal ring.

Fortunately, the platypuses that were caught were saved because the items were removed. Without human intervention, it is unlikely that they would have survived.

Photo: flickr/Ria Tan

According to the researcher’s estimations, as much as 1.5% of the platypuses living near Melbourne and 0.5% in Victoria are at risk of injury or death because of entanglement.

It really shines a spotlight on how necessary it is for humans to avoid any type of litter. Even items that are thought to be somewhat harmless could be fatal if an unsuspecting platypus should swim through it.

Photo: flickr/Melbourne Water

The authors of the study wrote the following: “Adverse population consequences of entanglement may become more significant during extended droughts when the frequency of platypus entanglement will plausibly rise due to reduced transport of litter downstream.”

They went on to discuss the need for community education so that both children and adults could be more mindful of how harmful litter can be. They would also like to remind people to cut any loops or rings they are discarding, regardless of the size.

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