Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rescue of platypus stuck in a pipe draws quite a crowd

The question of how many humans it takes to catch a platypus now has an answer, after a wandering duck-billed youngster stalled construction at the Penrith Sewage Treatment Plant yesterday. When the platypus was finally caught, there were 27 people milling around to see the results of a rescue effort that lasted more than six hours.

The platypus was tucked away in a long pipe attached to a large open tank of treated water. After Sydney Water staff gently flushed the pipe, it took four National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers to corral the juvenile male in a net before he was whisked away to a vet for a check-up.

Sightings of platypus in Western Sydney are rare, said the NPWS area manager, Jonathan Sanders. A spokeswoman for the NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service said there were no records of a platypus rescue in Sydney in the past four years.

But cleaner waterways might be helping the animals to make a comeback, Mr Sanders said. ''It could be that we're getting a re-colonisation of old habitats.''

A platypus biologist, Tom Grant, of the University of NSW, said the animal was probably seeking a new home after leaving the place were it had been born. He may well have come down from the Blue Mountains, but they've also been recorded around Cattai Creek. Most of the males disperse, but we don't really know where they go,'' Dr Grant said.

The animal was discovered at 8.30am yesterday by contractors working for Sydney Water. A construction worker, Paul Robson, initially thought it was an otter. ''I'm English - it's the only time I've seen one apart from in pictures,'' he said. NPWS rangers arrived around midday but had to wait for the reservoir to be tested for carbon monoxide before a rescue could be attempted. They then waited for more than an hour in hip-deep water for the animal to emerge from the pipe. The platypus received a clean bill of health from the vet, Robert Johnson.

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