26 September 2023

DAWE using DNA to sneak up on platypuses

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The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) has joined forces with NSW’s Department of Planning and Environment to search for platypus habitat in the State’s Blue Mountains.

The aim is to help the species recover from the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires.

Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley said platypus DNA had been detected at 29 sites in the Blue Mountains by officers using a new detection technique funded by the Australian and NSW Governments.

“As they swim, platypuses shed small traces of skin cells or body secretion into waterways which can be detected via environmental DNA testing of water samples,” Ms Ley said.

“The use of environmental DNA tracking is vital in supporting the recovery of the elusive platypus after the Black Summer bushfires,” she said.

“If we want to best support the recovery of species like the platypus, we need coordinated action on the ground that includes monitoring and research across the entire range of the animal.”

Ms Ley said that simply locating the iconic native species would help remove one of the biggest obstacles to supporting its recovery after the fires.

“It may be improving water quality by fixing soil erosion or removing sediment and debris from rivers to help them feed, but if we know where the platypus live, we can deliver the right support to the right location,” she said.

NSW Minister for Environment, James Griffin said that until recently, tracking teams needed to spend hours beside waterways waiting for the elusive mammals to appear.

“What we’re doing now is using high-tech DNA science to build a snapshot of how platypuses are faring,” Mr Griffin said.

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