by Shane Williams – Bridgetown Wildlife Rescue Smokey came into care not long after the terrible fires in Bridgetown began, in February 2022. Thankfully he was not found in the fire zone, but by some young children riding their bikes on a bush track close to their home. Smokey had...
Platypus in Victorian waterways can breathe a whole lot easier thanks to a state-wide ban on enclosed yabby traps which were drowning the species and other air-breathing water animals. The ban, set to come into effect in mid-2019, has had an immediate boost thanks to retailers stocking the cruel traps rushing to pull them from shelves.
The platypus is the most evolutionary distinct mammal species in the world. Platypus bills are primarily a sensory organ equipped with touch-detecting mechanoreceptors and electrosensors that identify currents generated by muscular contractions such as those made by yabbies and other invertebrates. This allows platypus to forage nocturnally along river beds with their eyes closed, with adults typically consuming around a quarter of their body mass in live food each day. Lactating females can reach an astonishing 80-90%!
To ingest this much food platypus travel up to 10km in feeding sessions that occupy around 12 hours a day. Such distances mean there’s a good chance they’ll come in contact with yabby and other fishing traps on their missions, and with large numbers of platypus being found drowned in traditional ‘Opera House’ nets and other enclosed traps it was an issue that urgently needed to be addressed.
In an effort to save our unique wildlife Humane Society International joined the newly-formed Victorian Alliance for Platypus Safe Yabby Traps in their call to have enclosed traps banned in all Victorian waterways. The Alliance also quickly started informing retailers of the traps about the cruelty they were causing in the hope that they would pull the offending products from shelves.
Thanks to the hard work of Alliance convener Douglas Gimesy progress was swift, and on the 14th of May the Victorian Government announced that from the 1st of July 2019 the deadly Opera House nets would be banned in all public and private waters throughout Victoria. Importantly, the ban is set to take place alongside a buy back scheme to swap dangerous nets out for newer, air-breathing animal-friendly designs.
Such a move is to be applauded, however the timeframe meant that platypus would regrettably be exposed to another summer of danger in Victorian waterways, highlighting the importance of the Alliance’s parallel push on retailers of the enclosed nets to cease sales. The momentum began after discussions with eBay led to the online retailer stopping the sale of Opera House nets Australia-wide due to the risks they present to platypus. This call was quickly followed by Anaconda, as well as major in-store sellers of the traps Kmart, Big W, Anglers Warehouse, CH Smith Marine, and importantly BCF – Australia’s largest fishing and camping store.
And with a recent announcement from Aussie Disposals notifying the Alliance that they had removed Opera House nets for sale from their website, cancelled their overseas imports of the traps, and instructed all their Victorian stores to remove opera house nets from sale effective immediately, every major retailer in Victoria has now made the move to withdraw sales of these platypus death traps (with many doing so nationally).
Many Australian retailers have also removed the sale of opera house nets due to the impact on the platypus. Image: Doug Gimesy
It’s rare for a campaign to be effective so quickly and comprehensively, but there is no time to rest! As the ban is set to commence after the next Victorian state election, the Alliance is now working on having the current Victorian opposition commit to the Labor Government’s ban – bipartisan support is essential to ensure the hard won progress remains.
And platypus aren’t just restricted to Victoria of course – we are now looking to other range states to mimic the moves made in Victoria with Humane Society International this week writing to the Queensland Ministers for Agriculture and the Environment as a member of the new Queensland Alliance for Platypus. We’re committed to ensuring platypus and all air-breathing wildlife occupying Australia’s rivers have the best chance of avoiding a cruel death wherever they are living.
Blog image: Victoria has announced a ban on enclosed yabby traps to prevent platypus drownings. Image: David Watts