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5th June - Platypus export plan denounced by Humane Society International      



5th June 2017

Humane Society International has written to Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg urging him to reject a controversial plan to export platypus from Taronga Zoo to San Diego Zoo in exchange for an African Okapi due to the risk to the Australian creature's survival.

Humane Society International is calling on the Minister to instead prioritise the conservation of the species in the wild at home in Australia, where it is clear the species faces a multitude of threats including habitat loss, drought, and drowning in fishing nets in the waterways they inhabit.

"There has in effect been an unwritten policy in operation for decades which has ensured that no platypus exports have occurred in Australia. This has been based on the premise that it is far too risky for the individual animals' survival to send them to overseas zoos, and that there is absolutely no conservation benefit from stocking overseas zoos with the animal,” said Evan Quartermain, Senior Program Manager at Humane Society International.

A platypus hasn't been exported from Australia since 1958, when three were shipped to Bronx Zoo, New York. All died within 9 months. Minister Frydenberg has to accept or reject the export plan through a formal process under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 but has already spoken in favour of the export publicly.

It was revealed in Senate Estimates in February this year that San Diego Zoo had announced it would be investing half a million dollars into a platypus conservation project under the auspices of Australia's Threatened Species Strategy.

"Such a 'species export for cash deal' is both a dangerous precedent and totally unacceptable to Humane Society International, and the Australian public. Past attempts to export platypus have failed due to the strong public backlash against shipping one of our beloved Australian icons overseas.

"The conservation status of the platypus in Australia is deteriorating rapidly. Instead of shipping platypus overseas, Humane Society International recommends the Minister prioritise an urgent review of the species' legal protection and whether it should be protected as a nationally threatened species,” continued Mr Quartermain.

1994 was the last time that Taronga Zoo, then in partnership with Uneo Zoo, proposed exporting live platypus to Tokyo Expo in Japan for a short-term loan. This issue caused such a public furore and intense media interest that the New South Wales and Commonwealth Governments backed down from the proposed transaction.

Recent reports have also shown the risks that are facing the platypus in Australia, with approximately half of a locally endangered population wiped out due to lethal opera house traps being used in a Victorian waterway.*

Illegal fishing traps are still being sold in major metro centres across the east coast of Australia and in Tasmania, despite being banned from use in the range of the platypus.

"Humane Society International is investigating where and how these traps are being purchased and used in an effort to make sure no other native wildlife are subject to the distressing fate of being drowned in their natural environment,” concluded Mr Quartermain.

*Half a struggling platypus population killed by illegal yabby pots in Victoria's east, ABC News 30 May 2017 (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-30/illegal-yabby-pots-kill-five-platypuses-victoria/8571974)


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