One of Australia's most iconic animal species could face extinction unless steps are taken to protect it from the effects of development and climate change, a new study warns.
The researchers predict that the total platypus population will be halved by 2070 under current climate and development conditions. If climate change occurs as expected, with extreme drought conditions becoming more and more common, the losses will be even more severe.
This is the last sign that the unorthodox, duck-billed mammal is "on the road to extinction," the researchers said on Monday in a press release from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
This path began more than 200 years ago, thanks to the Europeans who arrived in the country and hunted them for their skins, and has continued since then. UNSW researchers recently spent three years tracking the platypus population since the beginning of colonization, concluding that declines have since been "severely underestimated" in previous studies, leading them to "major concerns about the future survival of this unique species".
They observed that in 41% of known platypus environments, not a single observation of the animal was recorded during the years 2010. The new study suggests that this trend will increase, with platypus populations being eliminated from 40% of its current range in the coming years. 50 years.
Platypuses are considered unique in the animal kingdom for their unusual combination of physical characteristics, including notes of duck, poisonous appendages on the hind legs and fur coats.
They are currently listed as endangered in South Australia, but have no special protections in any other state. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) dubbed the species "almost threatened" in 2016, placing it in the same category as thousands of others, including the tiger shark, the Gila monster and the plover.
The researchers say the platypus' general lack of clear, present platypus should not be taken as a sign that their future is safe.
"Even for a presumed & # 39; safe & # 39; species, such as the platypus, mitigate or even stop threats … it will probably be more effective than waiting for the risk of extinction to increase," said co-author Brendan Wintle of Melbourne University. in the press release.
"We must learn from the danger faced by the koala to understand what happens when we ignore the warning signs."
IUCN puts koalas one step closer to extinction than platypus, categorizing them as vulnerable to extinction. Australia's conservation group Koala Foundation claimed last year that the animals are now "functionally extinct", with only 80,000 remaining in the wild, but this claim has been widely contested.
Platypuses and koalas are not the only Australian animals par excellence that face long-term danger. Purebred dingoes are classified as pests, allowing them to be hunted and shot, while several species face the possibility of being completely eliminated, as forest fires cross Kangaroo Island this month.
Actions that must be taken to preserve platypus populations include stepping up conservation efforts around monitoring, habitat management and threat mitigation, the authors said. The main threats to platypuses come from human interaction with their habitats, as dams can prevent them from moving, fishing nets can trap them and agricultural activity can destroy their burrows.
The study was published on January 9 in the journal Biological Conservation.