I left Cape Hillsborough (previous post) after only two days to squeeze in a visit to Eungella National Park, an hour and a half inland, in the hope of seeing platypus in the wild.
The established platypus viewing area is a few kilometres past the township of Eungella, at a spot where the road crosses the Broken River. On the near side of the river there’s an eco-resort (a couple of decades old) on the right and a so-new-it’s-raw National Parks camping ground on the left. Across the bridge are picnic grounds and walking trails to both right (downstream) and left, with several viewing platforms.
The most likely time to see platypuses is early morning so I was on the move just after 5.30. Others were already on the viewing platforms under the bridge and a hundred metres upstream from it but weren’t seeing any activity, so I thought I would go further upstream along the walking track to a likely-looking pool I had seen the day before.
Once there, I sat on a boulder and waited …
After watching “my” platypus here for some time (and enjoying a visit from a wandering scrub turkey) I walked back to the bridge. There I found an audience of perhaps a dozen, rapt in the activity of one or two platypuses. From the bridge itself I was able to see the entrance to a burrow, half-hidden under nondescript plants, on the resort side of the river.
Later in the morning I spoke to someone who had seen a platypus from the river bank just below the camping ground; I might say that my walk had been superfluous, except that solitude in the rainforest at dawn was a reward in itself.
My experience suggests that it is not hard to see a platypus in the wild at Broken River. What about elsewhere? I’ve seen them at Carnarvon Gorge, but that (as far as I remember) is all. However, they do occur right down the east coast from about Cooktown to the SA border (see the Platypus Care page) and they are so unobtrusive that there could be more around than we think; in fact, Wildlife Qld has a citizen-science project, PlatypusWatch, aimed at improving our knowledge.
I’m told that platypuses on Hervey’s Range were well known to local people 80 years ago, but I don’t know if they are still there. Similarly, they were common enough in Victorian country districts in the 1930s that David Fleay had no trouble finding animals for his Healesville Sanctuary but they are adversely affected by human activity and are probably uncommon in farming areas these days.
Incidentally, Fleay’s 1980 book, The Paradoxical Platypus, was republished in 2009 as I discovered by visiting the eco-resort’s dining room and browsing its small library, and is well worth reading.