Five platypus rescued from certain death following drought and bushfire have been released back into the wild by Barrington Tops based wildlife conservation organisation Aussie Ark.
Waterways in the Hunter and Manning catchments were severely impacted by drought and fire; the Manning River stopped flowing for the first time in recorded history.
Following the bushfires Aussie Ark staff were in the field providing supplementary food sources, relocating animals and bringing into care those that needed veterinary attention.
Among the species rescued by Aussie Ark were the five platypus. The individuals were severely malnourished, and their pelts were showing signs of extreme distress. The animals were found in muddy pools of water no bigger than backyard swimming pools and were essentially swimming in their own faecal matter. They had little to no food available and rising water temperatures threatening their lives.
After being cared for at the Australian Reptile Park, the platypus have more than doubled in body weight and were ready to go home.
With the river systems now repairing due to rainfall, Aussie Ark has been out releasing the animals back into the waters they were rescued from. Each waterway the platypus was collected from has been carefully surveyed to establish water quality, abundance of food and disease in preparation for the release.
"It was heartbreaking to see our unique platypus suffering, they are such a beautiful species. They were swimming up and down the small water holes they still had left in search of food with nowhere else to go," Aussie Ark president, Tim Faulkner said.
"Platypus are notoriously shy, and it is highly unusual for them to be so out in the open like they were, the fires would have driven them to do this.
"This release is the moment we have worked for. These wacky creatures belong in the wild and that is exactly where we want to see them!
"Unfortunately, it is just not the case of releasing them back where they came from once the fires died down. Waterways suffer so much after fire, the ash, debris and silt run straight into our rivers, choking them. We needed to ensure that we were releasing them into an environment that was healthy and recovered" Mr Faulkner said.
Aussie Ark will continue to monitor the waterways to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the animals, and that no further intervention is needed.