A waterways monitoring program undertaken by Melbourne Water has led to the discovery of the oldest platypus ever recorded in the wild. 

The Melbourne Water Urban Platypus Program (MWUPP), in association with Ecology Australia and Cesar performs sampling to gather population health data of these cryptic monotremes. 

The male platypus was estimated to be one year old when he was first captured and tagged as a sub-adult in November 2000. Due to the isolation of the Monbulk Creek platypus population, he will have lived in Monbulk Creek his entire life. 

He was recaptured in April 2023 when the discovery was made, then again in September; scanning the tag aged this platypus as 24, three years senior to the previously oldest known wild platypus; a female in the upper Shoalhaven River in New South Wales at 21 years old.

Senior Asset Manager for Service Enablement Catchments & Waterways at Melbourne Water who runs the MWUPP, Al Danger, co-authored a study paper focused on the discovery, as part of research into platypus longevity. 

“It’s been very exciting to discover our record-breaking platypus; his age has far exceeded our expectations for life expectancy. His condition was excellent for his age. There was no noticeable indication he was so old, just some wear and tear on his spurs.” Dr. Danger said. 

“He’s survived living in an urban environment, frequent flood events, avoided predators like cats, dogs and foxes, dodged litter entanglement and survived the millennium drought during the 2000’s.”

Platypus are listed as ‘vulnerable’ in Victoria. Melbourne Water conducts surveys using specialised nets to help catch the platypus with the aim of tracking their health over time.

To help protect Australia’s platypus population, Melbourne Water looks after waterways in a number of ways; through revegetation programs, providing environmental flows, stormwater reduction, condition monitoring and program evaluation, community advocacy and working with landholders on its river frontage projects.

Featured image: The 24-year-old platypus. Image credit: Melbourne Water.

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