Platypus Conservation

Prior to European colonisation, Campbells Creek probably had sufficient water to support platypus in all but the worst droughts.  The two main tributaries, Barkers Creek and Forest Creek now cease flowing in most years.  This is due to:

  • two large impoundments built across the creeks: Barkers Creek and Expedition Pass reservoirs
  • the huge number of small dams in the catchment
  • the loss of the “sponge” like nature of the catchment that existed prior to the clearance of native vegetation, introduction of hard-hoofed livestock, overgrazing, soil erosion and urban hard surfacing.

Nowadays, the discharge of treated sewage effluent from the Castlemaine Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) enables platypus to survive year-round downstream.  However, poor habitat quality and we suspect, poor water quality, restrict the platypus population and health

Our aim is to increase the platypus population and its health / reproductive success.

Our strategy is to do this by:

  1. Improving habitat quality, both in-stream and surrounding the waterways, by replacing invasive exotic plants with natives
  2. Extending our habitat improvement activities further downstream
  3. Improving water quality by encouraging Coliban Water to reduce the pollutants in the effluent discharged from the Castlemaine Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).
  4. Improving water quality and hydrologic regime by encouraging Mount Alexander Shire Council to better manage “storm-water” run-off, drain maintenance and requiring water sensitive urban design practices to new developments and retrospectively to other areas that produce polluting inflows
  5. Reducing the litter load in the creek through annual and ad-hoc collections
  6. Raising the community’s awareness of platypus presence in the creek and the impact of activities like dogs off-leash, fishing, yabby trapping, gardening, etc.

We are fortunate to have “before and after” information on the platypus population that indicate we are making a positive difference.

In April 2001, the Australian Platypus Conservancy (APC) surveyed platypus populations over eight kilometres of Campbells Creek.  Four individuals were captured.

In November 2019, the APC again surveyed, this time over five kilometres of creek.  Seven individuals were captured.  The report is available here.  

We conclude that our 18 years improving habitat quality have made a positive difference! 

However, the platypus population is far from secure:

  • Although downstream of the WWTP, the permanent stream flow allows year round platypus survival , the sex ratio (6 males: 1 female) indicates the habitat is far from optimal (females require better quality habitat).
  • Phosphate pollution is negatively correlated with platypus populations.  Our creek is polluted with phosphate from sewage effluent discharge, soil erosion and run-off from agricultural and urban land uses.  With increasing population and housing development this pollution is likely to get worse without better catchment management practices.
  • More than half of Campbells Creek is influenced by livestock grazing that prevents re-establishment of native vegetation.
  • We have a very limited ability to directly influence water quality and hydrologic regime, apart from advocacy.