Platypus occupy a wide variety of permanent streams, rivers and lakes and may also use temporary or manmade water bodies, particularly when these are linked directly to streams or rivers.
Geographical variation Return to Platypus Page
Although the fossil record shows the occurrence of several different platypus-like species, today Ornithorhynchus anatinus is the only known platypus.
Platypus do vary somewhat from place to place - for example, animals from Tasmania are somewhat bigger on average than their counterparts from Queensland. However, no sub-species or distinctive local races are currently recognised by scientists.
Status Return to Platypus Page
The platypus is officially classified as "Common but Vulnerable" in Australia.
As a species, it is not currently considered to be endangered.
However, platypus populations are believed to have declined or disappeared in many catchments, particularly in urban and agricultural landscapes.
In most cases, the specific underlying reasons for the reduction in numbers remain unknown.
Number of platypus Return to Platypus Page
Platypus surveys have only been carried out in a few catchments in eastern Australia.
It is therefore impossible to provide an accurate estimate of the total number of platypus remaining in the wild.
Based on recent studies, the average platypus population density along relatively good quality streams in the foothills of Victoria's Great Dividing Range is only around one to two animals per kilometre of channel.
Because platypus are predators near the top of the food chain and require large amounts of food to survive (up to about 30% of a given animal's body weight each day), it is believed that their numbers are most often limited by the availability of food, mainly in the form of bottom-dwelling aquatic invertebrates.
Legal protection Return to Platypus Page
Until the early twentieth century, platypus were widely killed for their fur.
The species is now protected by law throughout Australia.
Platypus in captivity Return to Platypus Page
Platypus are wild animals with specialised living requirements.
It is illegal for members of the public to keep them in captivity.
A platypus which has been accidentally captured along a stream or found wandering in an unusual place should never be taken home and treated as a pet, even for a brief time.
The animal will not survive the experience.
Only a small number of Australian zoos and universities hold permits to maintain platypus in captivity for legitimate display or research purposes.
Current Australian government policy does not allow this species to be taken overseas for any reason.