Well done to those who twigged this was our April Fool’s Day story for 2020! Thanks to our contributor Warren Whitmore for coming up with an original story idea.
Dog walkers on the Isle of Wight have been warned to take care whilst exercising their animals along the banks of the River Yar following a number of attacks on dogs and their owners by duck-billed platypuses.
The platypus has a poisonous spur on its hind feet, capable of delivering venom powerful enough to cause paralysis in a human and of killing a smaller mammal such as a dog. Both sexes of platypuses have ankle spurs, but only the male is capable of a venomous attack. Males are particularly aggressive in Spring, which is the breeding period.
It is thought that reduced numbers of walkers along the Newport to Sandown footpath due to the coronavirus has resulted in platypuses becoming more willing to leave the water. Several walkers have required hospital treatment in recent weeks.
The number of duck-billed platypuses on the Isle of Wight is believed to have increased over recent years, with numbers of the aquatic Australian mammals now estimated to have reached a total of over 4 figures. The invasive species has no known native predator, and therefore there is little prospect of the growth rate of the species decreasing.
The Isle of Wight is home to the only known population of platypuses outside Australia. They were first introduced to the Isle of Wight by the native Aboriginal servant of Queen Victoria, Bruce Lirpa-Folo, who released a couple of breeding pairs of the monotremes (egg-laying mammals) into the ponds at Barton Manor Farm on the Queen’s Osborne Estate.
It is not known how or exactly when the aquatic animals escaped from the Osborne Estate, but the numbers of platypuses on the Isle of Wight has shown a dramatic increase in the early years of the 21st century.
Platypuses are particularly common on the River Yar, where they feast on dragonfly larvae. It is also believed they are a threat to the native Island bird population, with moorhens at particular
risk of platypus predation.
Island Echo has been advised by local experts of what to do in the event of a platypus attack. The following steps should be followed:
- If in the water, leave the water
- Do not apply local bandages, tourniquet, cut or suck the wound or apply an electric current Neither application of heat or cold have proved effective.
- Seek medical attention for pain relief and tetanus immunisation, if appropriate.
Nature conservancy bodies have considered attempting to eradicate the invasive Australian species from Island rivers, but this course of action has met with vociferous objections from animal rights groups.
One proposed solution to reducing the number of platypuses on the Isle of Wight is to feed the animal with feed laced with contraceptives as a humane alternative to destroying the creatures. However, local scientists are yet to discover an effective form of contraceptive for platypuses.