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WIRES collaborates to save platypus tangled in plastic band

WIRES collaborates to save platypus tangled in plastic band

When WIRES heard of the sighting of a platypus with a plastic band around its neck, they knew this was not going to be an easy rescue. A local wildlife enthusiast and avid photographer, Wal Bailey, had managed to photograph the stricken creature, in a photo that clearly indicated what appears to be a bright orange plastic bracelet of the type dispensed at music festivals and events. It wasn’t the only sighting at this local creek and numerous concerned locals and WIRES members have since reported seeing the creature.

WIRES became highly concerned about the welfare of the platypus. Longer term there is an issue of the band tightening as the platypus grows, however the more immediate concern is that the band becomes caught on a snare in the creek as the platypus forages and that it may drown if not able to surface for air.

Platypus are very secretive creatures, mainly nocturnal but sometimes able to be seen at dusk and dawn. Sighting this individual would be one thing – freeing it from the plastic ring would be a completely different issue. Clearly a major undertaking, WIRES initiated a process of reaching out to relevant agencies for advice, assistance and support in order to help.

National Parks and Wildlife, Department of Primary Industries, Southern Cross University, Lismore City Council and local Landcare group were all contacted, together with the Australian Platypus Conservancy. All consulted were concerned for the welfare of the platypus. An initial trapping effort was organised, with WIRES volunteers assisting to lay nets and monitor them throughout the night. Unfortunately, the initial attempt didn’t manage to catch any platypus.

By now news of this little creature’s plight had spread and an experienced platypus rescuer from University of NSW, Gilad Bino, responded. As a former WIRES member himself, he was keen to come to the assistance of a distressed animal. A second trapping night was organised with Gilad leading the team of WIRES volunteers. Another all-nighter was organised, with three platypus venturing into the traps. Unfortunately, none were the banded individual, so they were simply released.

WIRES hasn’t given up hope of helping the platypus. The location of the platypus cannot be made public as we do not want to disturb it further. However, locals who are familiar with the area and situation are being encouraged to report in to the local WIRES branch (on 66281898) providing times and locations, so that the rescue team can best plan their next trapping event.

The plight of this poor platypus is yet another reminder to the public of the dangers of plastic rings, and the terrible toll that plastic is having on wildlife. Please always dispose of plastics appropriately, and remember to cut any plastic rings and bands, regardless of their size. You might just be saving the life of a platypus.

If you are keen to make a difference for the wildlife in our area, consider joining WIRES. For more information about how you can join and contribute call 6628 1898.

Attempts to free platypus from plastic band
Photo credit: Wal Bailey

Photo credit: Wal Bailey

WIRES relies heavily on the generosity of caring people for support. All donations $2 and over are tax deductible. Now is also a great time to join WIRES and start learning to be a wildlife rescuer. Our 24-hour hotline is for all rescue, advice or membership calls in the Northern Rivers – call 6628 1898 or go to http://wiresnr.org/Helping.html to find out how you can help.

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