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Rescuers Search For Platypus With Rubber Band Stuck Around Its Neck

A platypus has been photographed with a red plastic ring around its neck, but sadly search efforts have been hampered by bad weather.

The creature was first spotted swimming around waterways near Lismore, in northern NSW, by local photographer and wildlife enthusiast Wal Bailey last week.,

While there have been several reported sightings since then, rescuers haven't been able to get to the creature because of heavy rains.

UNSW Research Fellow and platypus expert Dr Gilad Bino has been helping in the search for the creature so that it can have the plastic removed from its neck.

Animal rescue teams are desperately trying to find the platypus before it gets strangled to death. Photo: supplied, WIRES/Wal Bailey

Bino told 10 daily heavy rain had resulted in water levels increasing, making it harder for the platypus to be caught with a net.

But Bino said this platypus, which he believes to be an adult, is not an uncommon sighting.

"We've been observing platypuses in a number of rivers across Australia and it's not uncommon to find some sort of hair ties or bands or fishing ties around their necks," he said.

"It's unfortunately quite a widespread occurrence."

Bino explained platypuses are particularly prone to getting plastic and other wrappers caught around their necks because of the way they forage and scour creek beds with their bills.

An adult male platypus at an animal sanctuary in Melbourne. Photo: Reuters

The Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) was alerted to the platypus last week, and has worked to find and save the animal.

Small Mammal Coordinator from WIRES Northern Rivers, Renata Phelps told 10 daily that all sorts of pollution made its way into waterways.

"There have been individual issues with animals becoming entangled in plastic, but it is becoming far more prevalent, we are getting far more incidents of this," Phelps said, adding various bird species were also becoming victims.

"One of the main problems we have around waterways is with fishing line and finishing netting."

"It becomes tighter and tighter around their feet and wings and it cuts off their circulation."

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Platypuses have been listed as near threatened since 2016, but Bino said there is a growing push to have their protection status upgraded to vulnerable, because there have been noticeable declines in their population.

He explained that issues around river regulation, the building of dams and drawing of water, habitat destruction, and the tearing down of vegetation which destabilises river banks where platypuses live, are the dominant causes of declining populations.

The platypus - an animal so elusive that the majority of Australians have never seen it in the wild.

"Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world recently and has one of the highest land clearing rates in developed countries," Bino said.

"So, unfortunately, Australia is not doing well in terms of protecting its biodiversity."

Bino and Phelps hope the search for the platypus will be able to resume later this week.

"We've really appreciated the help and support of those locals who are aware of the platypus' plight," Phelps said.

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au