Platypus returns to a national reserve in Australia after half a century

The platypus, an animal found only in Australia, was reintroduced into the country’s oldest national reserve south of Sydney on Friday after disappearing from the area more than half a century ago, as part of a major project to conserve the threatened species.

The platypus, famous for its webbed beak and feet and a poisonous thorn on the side of its foot, is one of only two species of egg-laying mammals in the world and spends most of its time in the water at night.

Because of its natural tendency to be lonely and its need for special features in its habitat, most Australians have never seen a platypus in the wild.

The reintroduction of the platypus is a joint work of the University of New South Wales, Taronga Threatened Species Conservation Society Australia, WWF Australia, National Parks and the New South Wales State Wildlife Service.

Four female platypuses were released on Friday into the Royal National Park, which was established in 1879 and is the second-oldest national park in the world.

No confirmed sightings of platypuses have been reported in the reserve, 35km south of Sydney, since the 1970s.

Estimates of the current population of platypuses vary widely, ranging from 30,000 to about 300,000.

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