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Why no platypus in zoos outside Australia?

 
 
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  #1
Why no platypus in zoos outside Australia?
Old 19-05-2011

Hello. Does anyone know why there are no platypuses (paltypi?) outside of Australia? Is there some legal prohibition against their export/display? I initially thought that it might be a matter of keeping them alive in captivity, but I notice that there are several Australian institutions that have them.

Has there ever been a platypus in an American or European zoo? Is there a possibility that there ever will be?
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  #2
Old 19-05-2011

No there hasn't and I doubt I will see one exported whilst I am alive (and I'm only 24).

Platypus have only recently been semi-regularly bred in captivity in Australia. There was a breeding in 1943 and then no more until I think the late 1990s. Since then Healesville and Taronga have both bred a few, but they are still by no means established as a captive population. Until that happens, the only even vaguely arguable justification for sending them overseas would be the commercial benefit of the exporting institution.

Yet why would they do that? Whilst only macropods and sugar gliders are *common* Australian native mammals in overseas collections, you will find koalas, wombats, dingos and echidnas in zoos in both Europe and North America. Copenhagen Zoo even has Tasmanian devils. Platypus are the biggest drawcard species Australian zoos have that cannot be seen anywhere else. Why sell any to San Diego or Berlin, when they are currently a drawcard for tourists to visit zoos in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane?

Purely on common-sense business principles, expect to have to visit Australia to see a platypus for some time yet.
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  #3
Old 19-05-2011

the only ones kept outside Australia were at the Bronx Zoo in New York (1922, 1947, 1958). One sent to the UK at the request of Churchill during WWII died when almost there. As CGSwans says, there's really no chance any will ever be sent outside Australia again. I think only one of the ones at the Bronx survived a long time, but otherwise they haven't lived terribly long.
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  #4
Old 19-05-2011

Thanks for the information and insights. Much appreciated.
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  #5
Old 19-05-2011

I haven't got any of my books to hand where I am, but someone with some references will come along soon hopefully and give some more details on the Bronx Zoo ones (the story is an interesting one)
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  #6
Old 19-05-2011

Quote:
Originally Posted by CGSwans View Post
Purely on common-sense business principles, expect to have to visit Australia to see a platypus for some time yet.
Let's just say I'm glad the African continent doesn't hold that thought...

If it really is just that, then in my opinion that's rediculous and undermines the whole idea of any zoo, anywhere...
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  #7
Old 19-05-2011

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Originally Posted by Chlidonias View Post
the only ones kept outside Australia were at the Bronx Zoo in New York (1922, 1947, 1958). One sent to the UK at the request of Churchill during WWII died when almost there. As CGSwans says, there's really no chance any will ever be sent outside Australia again. I think only one of the ones at the Bronx survived a long time, but otherwise they haven't lived terribly long.
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Originally Posted by Chlidonias View Post
I haven't got any of my books to hand where I am, but someone with some references will come along soon hopefully and give some more details on the Bronx Zoo ones (the story is an interesting one)
Lee S. Crandall’s classic book The Management of Wild Mammals in Captivity (1964) provides lots of information about the platypuses in New York (Bronx) Zoo. In summary:-

Bronx Zoo’s first platypus, a male, arrived on 14th July 1922; sadly it lived less than two months, dying on 30th August 1922.

On 28th April 1947, one male (“Cecil”) and two female (“Betty” & “Penelope”) platypuses went on exhibit in Bronx Zoo. “Betty” died of pneumonia on 6th September 1948. The other two both lived much longer, the female "went missing" on 1st August 1957; the male died on 18th September 1957.

Three more platypuses, a male and two females, arrived on 7th June 1958; these did not do well, the longest living of these died on 25th March 1959.

Last edited by Tim May; 19-05-2011 at 08:37 PM..
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  #8
Old 19-05-2011

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Originally Posted by jwer View Post
Let's just say I'm glad the African continent doesn't hold that thought...

If it really is just that, then in my opinion that's rediculous and undermines the whole idea of any zoo, anywhere...
It *isn't* really just that. I did make it clear that they are not at present fully established in captivity. That alone is a good reason not to let them go overseas. Every platypus that is bred in captivity is currently needed by the program here.

But I do have to say that I don't really see a problem with protecting Australian tourism, if it ever came to that being the only reason not to send them overseas. One of Australia's chief drawcards for its largest non-mining industry (ie, tourism) is unique fauna. Why shouldn't Australia's zoo industry be able to benefit from exclusivity, even for this one species? Unless the survival of the platypus was ever dependent on input from overseas zoos (extremely doubtful), I don't really see the need for them to be sent abroad so that other zoos can just take away one of the few lures Australian zoos have for international visitors.
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  #9
Old 19-05-2011

Further to the information in my earlier post about the Bronx Zoo’s platypuses:-

Amazingly, The Zoological Gardens of Europe (C. V. A. Peel, 1903) records that Leipzig Zoo had a duck-billed platypus in 1899; the same book also lists a duck-billed platypus in Frankfurt.

I know no other details of these animals; if anybody can supply further information I would be extremely interested.
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  #10
Old 19-05-2011

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Originally Posted by Tim May View Post
On 28th April 1947, one male (“Cecil”) and two female (“Betty” & “Penelope”) platypuses went on exhibit in Bronx Zoo. “Betty” died of pneumonia on 6th September 1948. The other two both lived much longer, the female until 1st August 1957; the male until 18th September 1957.
in the summer of 1953, there was 'Platypusmania' when they believed Cecil and Penny were breeding in the specially constructed 'Platypusary' as Penny dug a burrow and appeared to be getting bigger and eating far more than normal. Her general behaviour mirrored exactly David Fleay's observations of breeding in Australia. They supplied Eucalyptus leaves from the nearby Botanic garden for her to line her nest with, which she did. The press got hold of the story and the 'expectant' Platypus saga became aired all across America. Finally, several weeks after Penny had first disappeared from view, the waiting became too much(the cold autumn was coming anyway) and, in front of the cameras, they dug her out, finding no young, just a fat Penny.

(From Hold That Tiger! 1957 Sam Dunton. New York Zoo Photographer)

Last edited by Pertinax; 19-05-2011 at 08:27 PM..
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  #11
Old 19-05-2011

I agree with @jwer:

@CGSwans: What would you think, if all countries in other continents would do it the same way? There would be no elephant, no tiger, no polar bear etc., etc. in Australian zoos. Also, THE chief drawcard of e.g. Tansania and Kenia are their animals as well. Many of those can be seen in zoos worldwide, but this fact has no influence of their tourist industry. Why should it have to Australia's?
Zoos are a global coummunity with global goals/targets. Those can only reached together. There is no place for cooking its own soup (german saying) in a selfish way.
I'm agree, that platypuses should not be exported as long as breeding results in Australia are so low. But keep in mind, that it is not seldom, that breeding rates in zoos in foreign countries CAN BE better then in zoos in the species origin country. (For example for the Giant Anteater in Dortmund, Germany).
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  #12
Old 19-05-2011

[quote=zoomaniac;441749]
4. Platypus are not a species that any but the most skilful and dedicated (or at least lucky) of nature travellers can reasonably hope to see in the wild. I've lived in Australia for my entire life, and have often gone walking and looking for platypus in habitats where I know they are present. I've never seen one. [QUOTE]

SORRY- I have unwittingly edited your post instead of Quoting it. My mistake..

Have you looked in Tasmania? I live in UK but have visited Tassie several times. I saw wild Platypus several times (almost everytime I went looking), and was even able to find one for my small children to see too.

some years later I returned and one evening went out to search- again I saw a Platypus within a few minutes and watched it for a long time.

Last edited by Pertinax; 20-05-2011 at 02:58 AM..
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  #13
Old 19-05-2011

Quote:
Originally Posted by zoomaniac View Post
@CGSwans: What would you think, if all countries in other continents would do it the same way? There would be no elephant, no tiger, no polar bear etc., etc. in Australian zoos. Also, THE chief drawcard of e.g. Tansania and Kenia are their animals as well. Many of those can be seen in zoos worldwide, but this fact has no influence of their tourist industry. Why should it have to Australia's?
Zoos are a global coummunity with global goals/targets. Those can only reached together. There is no place for cooking its own soup (german saying) in a selfish way.
I'm agree, that platypuses should not be exported as long as breeding results in Australia are so low. But keep in mind, that it is not seldom, that breeding rates in zoos in foreign countries CAN BE better then in zoos in the species origin country. (For example for the Giant Anteater in Dortmund, Germany).
Fully agreed, what if every other country would apply the same politics, then no exotic animal would ever be sent abroad.

And it's easily drawn a lot further then this, what if Dortmund would stop breeding giant anteaters because they don't want this species in any other zoo then theirs, so that they become a huge draw for Dortmund Zoo...

Why would Taronga receive gorilla's from Apenheul? The species is a huge draw for Apenheul and now they might not get as many Australian tourist as they would have had otherwise?!

One of the reasons for the restrictions that I read somewhere was that in the early 60's, animals where traded by buying them. By applying strict laws, Australian animals become very rare and valuable abroad which gave the Australian Zoo's a huge advantage if they wanted to get rare animals. They could easily trade them with other Zoos for their Australian fauna. That seems like a lot more plausible reasoning behind the export-ban.

And opening it up now would create a huge flurry of people trying to obtain (wild-caught) mammals and selling them abroad for a quick buck.
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  #14
Old 20-05-2011

In contrast to CGSwans, I think real reason is that platypus are expensive to keep for their size (eat thousands of earthworms and similar invertebrates) and not interesting for general public, being nocturnal, small, brown etc. Compare kiwis in Frankfurt zoo, which are not bred because there is no demand for them.

I cannot think that anybody would come to Australia especially to see platypus in a zoo. There are visitors to Australia who want to see animals, but generally kangaroos and koalas. Not that there are not kangaroos in most non-Australian zoos.

But the story of exclusivity was amusing. Export bans are unfortunately common in many remote countries, and often result that animal cannot be legally exported to zoo abroad, but at home is poorly protected or outright shot in numbers. BTW, trade ban did not prevent hundreds of Australian reptiles to be smuggled abroad for pet trade.
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  #15
Old 20-05-2011

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim May View Post
Further to the information in my earlier post about the Bronx Zoo’s platypuses:-

Amazingly, The Zoological Gardens of Europe (C. V. A. Peel, 1903) records that Leipzig Zoo had a duck-billed platypus in 1899; the same book also lists a duck-billed platypus in Frankfurt.

I know no other details of these animals; if anybody can supply further information I would be extremely interested.
That is some truly amazing information, probably not even known by a lot of specialists. Zootierliste only has London and Rotterdam listed.
 


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