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Juvenile Platypus in care

Video of Platypus release click here

January 2007

By Sue Ulyatt

This juvenile Platypus came in to care with WIRES in early January 2007. It was found by Coen, Jake and Mandy on the bank of a creek, covered in ticks.

Suffering from Pneumonia and exhaustion we can only guess what may have happened, considering recent heavy rain in our local area, he may have been washed out of a burrow.

WIRES carer Ralph transported the Platypus to Lismore Vet Clinic where he was treated for dehydration and treatment given to remove the ticks. It is important that ticks not be removed manually in cases like this, due to the amount of ticks, damage can be done.

The following day it became apparent that Platypus was also sufferning from Pneumonia. WIRES member Phil Kemsley who is a veterinarian prescribed antibiotics in consultation with experienced an Platypus carer from David Fleay's Wildlife Park in SE Queensland.

He was tube fed for about a week, before the antibiotics took care of his Pneumonia, he started to gain strength, and able to self feed. Finding food that he would actually eat was a challenge in itself, he would turn his bill up at just about everything he was supposed to like, but we did eventually find his favorite, small crayfish from our creek. It became a daily trek down to the creek finding cray fish. That was not too hard as there is plenty down there, and we came up with a successful way of catching them.

Housing a Platypus was something we had never had to do, so a new enclosure was constructed in a hurry. This became a challenge, as Platypuses do not have an enclosure even close to any other animal we had previously had in care. He needed a burrow,complete with resting and sleeping nest at one end, and access to the water at the other.

Help was at hand from Flay's Wildlife park in SE Queensland, where they have raised Platypus in the past. We were instructed on how to make an enclosure, and how to set it up, which we did, and Platypus loved it. Here he was able to go for a swim and hunt for food put in daily. Having food in a small area, meant that the water had to be changed daily, and new food supplied.

Images above show him in his enclosure, about to enter his constructed burrow.

Releasing Platypus was a great experience, having had him in care for 15 days, the release time had to be chosen carefully. The day was chosen due to the moon being dark, predators would be less on a dark moon, the day was overcast, and slight rain had fallen in the morning.
We took him to the release site early in the afternoon.



As I put him on the rocks by the water, he did not take many seconds before he slid in to the water, his excitement was clearly visible as he made his way through the water staying close to the bank of the creek, his bill searching out food.

He came back to me a few times, then he entered the deeper water, and once having assured himself that he was indeed free, he did not come close to me again.




I can imagine him thinking she is not going to put me back in that enclosure, I'm staying out of her reach.

We stayed and watched him for quite some time, until he made his way up a slight slope on the embankment and disappeared in to the reeds. He stuck his bill in to the water a few times, cleaning his cheek pouches of food scraps as they do after eating, and he then did not show himself again.

We decided to leave him in peace to enjoy his freedom.
Having had the experience of caring for this unique animal has been a privilege, one I will treasure.
They rarely come in to care, and when they do often their injuries are so severe that they can not be saved.

Being able to help this little fellow back to the wild was indeed a pleasure, and we have in the process learnt so much, spoken to some very dedicated people helping these animals survive in a ever decreasing natural environment.I would like to thank staff from Flay's Wildlife park in SE Queensland, and staff from Australia Zoo who were a great help with information on how to care for this Platypus, and help on how best to release him.

Is there anything we can do to help these animals survive in the future?


Where possible leave trees or other vegetation around creeks, waterholes and dams. If clearing willows, resist the temptation to 'clean up the river', make sure native trees, tea tree or other plants replace them.

Keep farm or household chemicals such as pesticides away from areas where platypus may be found. Do not use pesticides if there is a chance of rain as they may be washed into creeks before they have soaked in. Use bridges rather than culverts on new tracks or roads. Platypus will not swim through culverts as the water flow is to uniform. They will cross the road instead and are often hit by traffic while doing so.

Parks and Wildlife service Tasmania

Images by Sue Ulyatt & Alicia Carter




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