Platypus stuck in sewage plant at Winmalee

Platypus rescued from a stinker of a situation

A young male platypus trapped in a sewage water treatment plant prompted an urgent plea to the NSW Blue Mountains community this week.

Wires volunteer Tracy Burgess made an urgent call-out on a community web page for anyone with a long pool scoop.

The juvenile platypus was trapped in the first flushing tank at the water treatment plant at Winmalee. It was only the size of a human hand, the eagle eyes of worker Rod Braithwaite had spotted it, she said.

Ms Burgess got the call on the WIRES emergency call-out app just before 9am. She stopped reading emails in her Katoomba office and rushed to the scene. That's when she realised her five metre long pole would not reach the animal.

She said the pool "stunk" and was "filthy".

"All the workers were very concerned. I had this huge big net with an extendable pole but it still wasn't long enough."

With workers from the plant Ms Burgess and another WIRES volunteer Kylie Camilleri "MacGyvered" some hard plastic tubing and "gaffa-taped it on to the pole". "Two or three goes" and the platypus was caught, taken out, wrapped it in a towel and checked over, before heading to the North Richmond vet. The rescue was complete by 11am.

Ms Burgess said it was the first WIRES rescue of a platypus in the Blue Mountains in five years. Before that, it is understood three platypuses have ended up at the Winmalee plant over a few years.

"We were worried about what it had ingested," she said. "I wrapped it in a towel, I wasn't worried about his spur ...we checked him over for injuries and then when we put him in the tub, he started hiding under the towels in there.

Platypuses are endangered and WIRES likes to ensure they go back in the wild quickly.

"Wombats and platypus don't do well in care, they can die from being stressed," she said.


North Richmond Vet Hospital Dr Maya Silberstein gave the animal the all clear, but because of its small size, also consulted with Taronga Zoo and National Parks.

Practice manager Laura Northover said: "It was doing quite well ... We see a lot of exotics, but not really platypus and because of where it was found (in the treatment plant) we thought it should go off to an expert at Taronga".

On Wednesday Taronga Zoo veterinary officer Kimberly Vinette Herrin confirmed: "It was transferred here and doing well. A little thin which is seen in dispersing young males. Health check is all good - normal bloodwork (not anaemic which we sometimes see). Will assess feeding and plan release in conjunction with Parks - hopefully soon".

The platypus will be released at Hawkesbury Heights. It's believed the monotreme swam from a feeder creek into a water pipe and landed in the pool while it was full.

"Everyone's excited to know that they are here," Ms Burgess said.