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It’s the season for saving one of Australia’s quirkiest animals – the platypus

Quirky: Ecologist Tamielle Brunt was drawn to the “quirkiness and the uniqueness” of the platypus.

CATCHING a platypus in the wild is something that’s steered Tamielle Brunt’s career.

The magic moment happened at a creek in the Grampians National Park in Victoria.

“I was living in Mackay at the time and flew down to Victoria and had three days at the Grampains trapping platypuses (during a platypus survey),” she said.

“And we caught one and it was really exhilarating just being so close to this animal, and it was just amazing, and I guess I was just hooked after that.”

Ms Brunt, who is now a leading figure in research on the platypus in Queensland, will speak about this and other experiences, and give insights and tips on protecting the endangered animal during a Season of Creation webinar being presented by Brisbane archdiocese later this month.

The archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission is presenting the webinar Protecting the Platypus in collaboration with Wildlife Queensland.

CJPC executive officer Peter Arndt said he was shocked to learn from Wildlife Queensland that the platypus was “in danger”.

“And I think it’s good for us to know that (that it is threatened) and know more about the practical things that Wildlife Queensland has in mind that we can do to help with the protection of the platypus,” Mr Arndt said.

“(The webinar) might open people’s eyes to other things they can do to protect other wildlife, including the koala and the spotted quoll.”

Protecting the Platypus is part of a three-part webinar series focusing on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home), and it would offer practical ways of living what the Pope was teaching.

“Certainly in the First Chapter of Laudato Si’ the Pope gives us an overview of the range of environmental problems which are facing us at the moment, including the decline in biodiversity and the threats to wildlife,” Mr Arndt said.

“And throughout the encyclical he encourages us to commit ourselves to caring for creation including, obviously, all the creatures of the Earth as part of our Christian mission, and so we chose one very practical aspect of caring for creation in our own backyard as an example for people to see something that they could do practically to help to restore some harmony and balance in creation.”

Ms Brunt is a doctoral candidate at the University of Queensland studying platypus populations in south-east Queensland.

She said it was “the overall quirkiness and the uniqueness of this animal” that drew her to studying the platypus.

“When we caught one in the Grampians – and I guess being so up close and personal … they really are just an anomaly, and it just fascinates me every single time that I capture one,” she said.

“And I just think this is (such) a little weird animal, and I guess it’s experiencing that – talking to the ecologists that I was training with and just understanding more about their ecology and their biology.”

When she returned from the three-day annual platypus survey that had been held in Victoria for 20 years, Ms Brunt had expected something similar would’ve been available for her to join in Queensland but there wasn’t so she decided to do something about that.

“Apart from the Platypus Watch Network, which is through the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, there was no real long-term collection of data apart from promoting observational (exercises) for people to record their sightings when they see them,” she said.

“There was really no specific focus within the space as to what was going on with the platypus.

“So that’s when I said, ‘Well, I think I’ve found where my niche is going to be for the next few years …’”

In the Protecting the Platypus webinar Ms Brunt will indicate areas that have lost platypus and those where they’re hanging on, and what we can do to help protect them.

She said the platypus has disappeared from waterways like Enoggera Creek, Cabbage Tree Creek and Kedron Brook in Brisbane; and from Tallebudgera Creek on the Gold Coast.

But she said, given the right conditions, the platypus could be resilient “because we are still seeing them in areas of Brisbane that you really wouldn’t think they’d be”.

“So in the industrial areas of Wacol, around Pooh Corner, … where there’s reserves, we’ve been monitoring … for the past five years and they’re holding on,” she said.

There were waterways on the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast where platypus could still be found.

Anyone logging in to Ms Brunt’s webinar will be given tips on how they can help the platypus survive.

“Just in general freshwater waterways are certainly the lifeblood of this country overall,” she said.

Joining a local catchment group, helping to repair riparian zones, reducing chemical runoff from gardens and businesses into waterways, and reducing water pollution generally were among ways top help.

A simple thin like not throwing away hair-ties and rubber bands could also help.

“There have been platypus caught in those and it hasn’t ended well unfortunately,” Ms Brunt said.

The Protecting the Platypus webinar will be held on September 23 at 10.30am.

Find out more and register at: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_RGrU48QlSmSxVcBgbDvvDA

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