About six months ago down by the creek that forms the northern boundary of our property 'Near River', I thought I saw a Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) in the shallows. They are very timid creatures, usually more active at night, and given that I didn't get a clear view, I didn't think too much more about it.
That is until yesterday.
Whilst undertaking some natural area restoration work on an adjoining property, I watched two of these wonderful mammals swimming along the banks of our creek.
Endemic to Australia, platypus, along with the four species of the related echidna (Zaglossus sp.), are one of the five existing species of monotremes, who are mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young.
Now consider the surprise that white explorers found themselves in when they first came upon these bizarre creatures - an egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal. The animal baffled European naturalists when they first encountered it, with some considering it an elaborate fraud, particularly as pelts were all that could be sent 'home' to Europe from the land first called New South Wales.
Much of the world was introduced to the Platypus in 1939 when National Geographic Magazine published an article on the Platypus and the efforts to study and raise it in captivity. The following video, also from National Geographic, provides a wonderful insight into the lives of these animals.
Previously, Platypus have been hunted for their fur, but thankfully now they are protected throughout Australia, and whilst they are vulnerable to the effects of pollution and habitat loss through clearing and urbanisation, they are not under any immediate threat.
I cannot describe the utter delight it is to have these guys frolicking in our 'backyard'.
The added bonus for us is that their existence here is a firm indication of the overall good health that the ecosystem that our property, the creek and the valley upstream from us is in, and that's something to be really pleased about.
image credit pedro qtc