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Platypus death toll continues to rise

30 March 2011

Healesville Sanctuary and the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) are warning rogue anglers to stop illegally using opera house nets after another Platypus was found dead in the Bunyip River this month.

The dead Platypus, a female, was found trapped in one of three opera house nets tied to a log in the river near Labertouche in West Gippsland. 

"Although the Platypus is still listed as common, but we have noticed a decline in their number over recent years," Jessica Thomas, Platypus Keeper, Healesville Sanctuary said. 

"Unfortunately, we are finding these illegal nets in public waterways like creeks and rivers and, because they are so cheap, people just leave them behind after they finish with them," Jessica said. "The Platypus swims along the base of the river looking for invertebrates, swim into the trap trying to get the yabbies and, because they are a mammal, when they get stuck underwater, they drown a horribly and painfully slow death. "

A female Platypus can only breed once a year, giving birth to between one and three young. Between September and March, the babies get left in an underground burrow for four months while the female comes back to feed them with her milk. If the mother dies, her young will starve to death underground.

Under the Fisheries Act 1995 offenders detected, possessing or using an opera house net in or close to inland waters can be issued with a penalty infringement notice or charged under summons to appear in court and face a maximum fine of $11,300. Vessels and vehicles may also be seized. Under the Wildlife Act 1975 the maximum penalty for killing a platypus is $5,500 and/or six months imprisonment.

Members of the public are encouraged to report the illegal use of opera house nets by calling DSE on 136 186 or Healesville Sanctuary on 5957 2800.

To learn more about the impact of the illegal use of opera house nets in Victoria's public waterways click on the short video. 

"We hope that this campaign will help highlight the impact of this cruel practice," Jessica concluded.