According to a study by the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the platypus, that emblematic and strange Australian animal with the bill of a duck and the tail of a beaver, is on the path to extinction due to climate change and the loss of its habitat due to human development.
Aggravating this situation is the severe drought that has afflicted Australia since last year, one of the worst in recent decades. This has dried up the rivers inhabited by these venomous nocturnal animals, which are endemic to eastern Australia and the island of Tasmania.
“These dangers further expose the platypus to even worse local extinctions with no capacity to repopulate areas,” said Gilad Bino, leader author of this research from the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science, in a press release.
The study, published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, calculates that the number of platypuses will be reduced by 47 to 66% in the next fifty years due to current climate conditions, as well as land clearing and the damming of rivers.
However, many jurisdictions in Australia haven’t put the platypus on any list, with the exception of South Australia, which has classified it as an endangered species. The researchers warned of mounting evidence that the platypus, like other native Australian species, is the path to extinction, and demanded urgent action to save them.
Director of the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science Richard Kingsford said that platypuses live in areas undergoing extensive human development that has threatened their lives and destroyed their habitats.
“These include dams that stop their movements, agriculture which can destroy their burrows, fishing gear and yabby traps which can drown them, and invasive foxes which can kill them,” explained Kingsford.
The platypus, which has been disappearing since the British colonized the country at the end of the 18th century, is considered one of the most primitive mammals from an evolutionary perspective.
This animal first came to the Natural History Museum in London in 1799, but British doctor George Shaw initially considered this animal, which has the skin of a mole, the tail of a beaver, the feet of a frog, the spur of a rooster, the bill of a duck, and teeth, to be a hoax, as he couldn’t believe in the existence of something so surprising.
*With information from EFE