Understanding distribution and population status
The Yanco Creek System in the NSW Riverina is complex and has many anabranching creek systems, floodplains and peripheral wetland systems. There are several historical records of platypus within the Billabong and Yanco Creek system (Atlas of Living Australia) however there is no further information about the extent or size of the population. No detailed assessment of the population has ever been conducted.
The community and landholders of the Yanco Creek System value the resident platypus population and the iconic species has been used by the community to argue the need to maintain perennial flows. In 2017, an injured platypus was rescued from the Colombo Creek and sent to Taronga Zoo for veterinary care. This rescue reiterated the vulnerability of platypus in the system and highlighted the lack of knowledge around where, and how many platypuses reside in the creek system.
In 2020 the Yanco Creek and Tributaries Advisory Council (YACTAC) highlighted the need to better understand the ecology of platypus in the creek system, including this as a priority objective in the Yanco Creek System Strategic Plan. There is an emerging appreciation of the role that citizen science has to play in threatened species conservation in Australia, especially when a clear research objective is defined (Stevens et al., 2019). To better utilise the community knowledge held within the Yanco Creek System Community, engagement with landholders and the collection and collation of sightings may prove a very reliable source of data. Combined with systematic environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys, community data is likely to add significantly to our understanding of the platypus population.
This study aimed to establish the distribution of platypuses throughout the Yanco Creek System, with platypus occurrence determined through eDNA analysis of water samples taken at a large number of sites throughout the catchment. Landholder and community information were also accessed to determine where and when platypus have been sighted. The results of the survey will be used to identify priority actions and recommendations for platypus management in the Yanco Creek System.