‘AMAZING SURVIVORS’: Rare breed back from the brink in Killarney
IN THE springs of Cambanoora Gorge, a beloved billed animal has made its return in the region’s ultimate sign of drought resilience.
Before the dry, Adjinbilly Rainforest Retreat Cabins’ owners Sue and Tony Hoopmann could usually count on guests seeing more than 15 platypuses in the retreat’s waterholes.
But as the drought took hold and the waterholes started to dry up, the animals became increasingly vulnerable.
“It’s been horrible,” Mr Hoopmann said of the drought.
“With the last group of visitors we took, we went back to a spot where we knew we had seen them before.
“We would usually get a 90 per cent success rate or higher of seeing them – the Gorge is more consistent than anywhere I’ve ever been – but there was nothing.
“It was a bit of a sad trip.”
The disappearance of the platypus was the latest in a heartbreaking drought toll.
“The thing is, at least platypuses can move,” Mr Hoopmann said.
“Seeing the fish flopping in really shallow water and knowing they haven’t got a chance, that’s the hardest thing to see.
“We couldn’t move them from waterhole to waterhole so there was quite a bit of opportunity for birds of prey and a lot of fish would have died.”
Disheartened, the Hoopmanns had almost lost hope of seeing platypus until a month or two ago when welcome rain fell across the region.
While their waterholes filled, the pair remained cautious because they did not know if the platypus would return.
But earlier this week, a guest spotted a platypus from a cabin.
“It was wonderful to see them alive and surviving in the springs. I’m really excited because it means they knew what they were doing this whole time,” Mr Hoopmann said.
Mr Hoopmann said he believed the platypus had walked until they found water in the area’s springs.
“The springs are never known to dry up in both Aboriginal and European times,” he said.
“So how long the platypus have been doing that, I don’t know.
“They may have been doing it for thousands of years.
“They really are amazing survivors.”
He said the return highlighted the springs’ adaptability.
“The springs are what make this area unique. From Spring Creeks to Browns Falls, they have survived the drought,” he said.
“We had PhD students come out during the drought and they had visited 30 springs before us and ours were the only ones still flowing.
“What this has proved to us, is the region is truly unique and more resistant to drought than we thought.
“If we can protect the springs, it can keep going.”