Paths & lights

The development of infrastructure that leads to increased human activity or nocturnal light levels near waterways has the potential to adversely affect platypus foraging. For example, although these animals rarely appear to react to the presence of a person or two sitting quietly on the banks, the arrival of numerous chattering humans can cause a foraging platypus to move away to a less threatening site. Research has also shown that platypus mortality risk can rise sharply following the construction of a walking track that facilitates predator access to shallow creek margins. Similarly, locating bright artificial lights near a creek or river can make it easier for predators to detect and kill platypus and also reduce the platypus’s food supply by inappropriately attracting aquatic insects away from the water as these emerge at dusk to breed.

What can be done to protect the platypus?

  • Walking tracks should normally be located a substantial distance (a least 20 metres and ideally even more) from the edge of natural water bodies where platypus are likely to occur. To reduce predator pressure and discourage the development of ad hoc human paths down to the water, bridges or viewing points that approach the water more closely should be located at sites where the banks are relatively steep and water is reliably deep.
  • It is essential that unmown low-growing vegetation and taller shrubs (particularly plants that overhang the water) are encouraged to grow between a walking track and the edge of a nearby stream or river to protect water quality and provide platypus and other wildlife with cover and places to hide from predators (such as foxes and dogs).
  • Street lights, security lights or the equivalent that are located within 100 metres of a natural water body should be designed to minimise the amount of artificial illumination directed towards the water, and ideally fitted with low-pressure sodium globes producing relatively low amounts of insect-attracting blue and ultraviolet light.
  • Wildlife viewing platforms located next to platypus habitats should be designed to reduce the likelihood that humans using the platform can be seen or heard by animals feeding in the vicinity.

Photo: APC