Taronga to build platypus refuge at Dubbo

A new refuge facility in regional NSW aims to save the platypus from the brink of extinction.
A new refuge facility in regional NSW aims to save the platypus from the brink of extinction.

Another of the country's most iconic animals could join the koala in extinction by the end of the century, conservationists say.

After an increase in the number of injured and sick platypuses coming through its doors, The Taronga Conservation Society says saving the animal will be a focus of its new strategic plan.

The platypus is one of only two kinds of monotremes - mammals that lay eggs - and is found only in Australia.

"The platypus has been our emblem since we opened our gates just over a century ago in 1916," Taronga Conservation Society chief executive Cameron Kerr said on Wednesday.

"To think that our icon could vanish from the wild in another 100 years is unfathomable."

Under the strategy, Taronga will build a new refuge facility for platypus at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, in regional NSW.

The $8.8 million facility, funded by the NSW government and set to be completed in 2022, will allow conservationists to rescue, house and reintroduce platypus to the wild.

Drought and climate change have "hammered" the species, NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean says.

"Taronga are seeing an increasing amount of platypus being bought in with climate-related injuries and illnesses," he said.

"That's why the new state-of-the-art refuge facility is such an important addition to our conservation arsenal - both for emergency care and for long-term conservation research."

Mr Kerr said the facility would house up to 65 platypuses.

"If there's a crisis, we'll be able to bring them in to this refuge," he said.

"We are not going to let climate change steal our wildlife."

The new strategy, announced on World Wildlife Day, also includes a plan to build two world-first vet teaching hospitals specialising in Australian wildlife in Sydney and Dubbo.

"The catastrophic events of 2019 and 2020 provided a catalyst for reflection as individuals, as organisations and as a society," Mr Kerr said.

"At no time in history has Taronga's strategic plan had a more important role to play."

"We simply cannot let our Australian icons vanish in the next 50 years."

Australian Associated Press