Sydney: The platypus, an iconic Australian mammal with a duck bill and a beaver-like tail, is on the brink of extinction because of climate change and the loss of its habitat due to human development, according to a study published on Monday.
The severe drought that has plagued the country since last year and has been considered as one of the worst in recent decades also dried up the river habitats of these poisonous and nocturnal animals which are endemic to eastern Australia and Tasmania, Efe news reported.
"These dangers further expose the platypus to even worse local extinctions with no capacity to repopulate areas," Gilad Bino, a researcher at the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), said in a statement.
The director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science of the UNSW, Richard Kingsford, indicated that the platypus lives in areas where human and urban expansion has endangered their lives and destroyed their habitats.
"These include dams that stop their movements, agriculture which can destroy their burrows, fishing gear and yabby traps which can drown them, and invasive foxes which can kill them," Kingsford said.
The study, published in the scientific journal "Biological Conservation," estimates that under current climate conditions, and due to land clearing and fragmentation by dams, platypus abundance will decline by 47 to 66 per cent over the next 50 years.
"This would cause extinction of local populations across about 40 percent of the range," according to the study.
Platypuses are classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as "near-threatened", but many authorities in Australia have not included the platypus on any list, except for the state of South Australia, which has classified it as an endangered species.
The platypus, numbers of which have been dwindling since the British colonization of the country at the end of the 18th century, is considered one of the most primitive mammals from an evolutionary point of view.