On our way back from the New South Wales south coast, we called through Canberra to see some of the wildlife that can be found there. We were delighted to find a great place to see one of the only three monotreme (egg-laying mammal) species in the world today – the Platypus.
Q: What has webbed feet, a bill and lays eggs? A: a Platypus!
When the first specimen of the Platypus were sent to England in 1799, the scientists back then were highly suspicious about the authenticity of the animal, and thought that it might have been manufactured from other animals as a hoax. Indeed, the Platypus’s duck-like bill, webbed feet and large beaver-like tail are quite an extraordinary combination. As time went on, and more specimens were studied, scientists accepted that the Platypus was a real animal.
The two other monotreme species are the Long-nosed and Short-beaked Echidnas which, unlike the Platypus, live only on land. The Short-beaked Echidna is a resident of Australia and eats termites, and the Long-nosed Echidna lives in New Guinea and eats worms.
Platypuses (or Platypodes) are quite secretive and only surface for short amounts of time between hunting dives under water. They hunt for aquatic animals on the bottom of the ponds, using their super-sensitive bill, as they are not able to open their eyes while under water. Due to this way of hunting, they tend to make several dives in quick succession before they are able to find their food. This made photographing the animals very difficult indeed. We spent a number of hours waiting patiently at the edge of the pools, hoping for one of them to stay on the surface for more than a second, and to be close enough to fill the frame as well. We were well-rewarded, and several opportunities arose during the afternoon. One of the major positives at the these pools was that we were able to get eye level with the water line without having to get down and dirty on the ground.