The Sidney Myer World of the Platypus, opened in December 1994, is renowned as the best Platypus exhibit ever constructed. Visitors enjoy an intimate encounter with the mysterious Platypus in its captivating nocturnal creek habitat. Living ferns, mosses and lichens grow above waterfalls and rapids, and tangled tree roots shelter little-known animals such as water-rats, native fish and eels.
The Platypus is not presently at risk as a species (the species is listed as ‘least concern’ but many researchers have noticed a decline in numbers over the last 10 years). However, these animals rely on the health of the waterways in which they live. You can help preserve a healthy environment for Platypuses by using phosphate-free detergents and reducing or eliminating your use of plastic bags, which are deadly for the animals of our creeks, rivers and seas. Opera house nets, although illegal, are taking a horrible toll on Victoria’s wild Platypus population.
Healesville Sanctuary is internationally renowned for its role in Platypus care and research and was the first in the world to breed this unique creature in captivity. Meeting the Platypuses at Healesville Sanctuary is an important way to connect with the animals of Australia, and to learn about the Zoo’s conservation programs, especially those aimed at conserving threatened native species. The money you spend helps to support the Zoo’s conservation programs and fight species extinction.
Platypuses have thick brown fur, which traps an insulating layer of air next to their skin. Males grow to a length of about 60cm, females 50cm. Males have a venomous spur on the inside of their hind leg.
The soft bill of the Platypus resembles that of a duck, but is covered with soft, leathery skin containing sensitive nerves that can detect faint electrical fields generated by small aquatic animals that they prey on. This electroreception is unique among mammals.
Platypuses are most active in the early morning and late evening and spend most of the day in a burrow. The front paws are webbed and are used like paddles. When swimming, their eyes and ears are closed, and the sensitive bill sweeps from side to side searching for electrical impulses of their prey. Platypuses can stay underwater for several minutes and store food in their cheeks before coming to the surface to grind it up and swallow.
Echidna species and Platypus are the only animals in the Monotremata order: mammals that lay eggs.