Belgrave Platypus Festival

There is a magic about the Hills – especially on a rainy day, when there is the smell of wood smoke in the air. And out into the rain the people came to help preserve the habitat of our native platypus, as part of Belgrave’s 11th Annual Platypus Festival this afternoon.

I am constantly pinching myself that I live so close to the Dandenongs – but today just served as another reminder of why this part of the world is so special.

There are platypus living in the waterways off Belgrave Lake, Monbulk Creek and towards Birdsland Reserve – therefore making Belgrave Lake Park a very fitting place for the Platypus Festival.

However, in recent years local population numbers have been in decline – reinforcing the need to spread awareness of the issue through these kinds of events.

Among the local community groups at the Platypus Festival, the Southern Dandenongs Landcare Group and Platypus Education Group were there with up to 500 native plants for volunteers to help plant.

Melbourne Water, Where Habitats Meet, the Lizard Wizard and EEK! (Environmental Education for Kids) were also there at their respective tents with water testing and educational displays.

There was a sausage sizzle, activities and live music performances.

The Animals from Oz tent was also pretty exciting to visit – where you could meet fruit bats, tree frogs and Bubblegum the Blue-tongue Lizard.

When the time came for Animals from Oz’s final furry friend to emerge from his enclosure and say hello –

‘Who do you think is hiding in here?’ the ranger asked us. ‘I’ll give you a clue – he likes to sleep, and also likes to eat a lot of fresh grass.’

‘It’s a sheep!’ said one of the kids.

‘A skeleton!’ said another.

Instead, out wombled Dozer the 4 year-old wombat – Dozer, not only because he likes a nap, but ‘when he gets going, he’s a bit like a bulldozer!’
(He was pretty reluctant today to come out into the cold!)

All in all it was great afternoon (albeit a little bit wet, in true Dandenongs style), and a great way to learn more about local initiatives to help protect the platypus.

The last couple of years have been pretty momentous for platypus conservation, with a push to ban use of opera house nets and enclosed yabby nets as of last May.

The move, initiated by the Victorian Alliance for Platypus Safe Yabby Traps, came following thousands of platypus deaths each year, as platypuses would find their way into the yabby nets (to eat the yabbies), become trapped and then tragically drown.

It is hoped the ban will cut down the number of deaths.

The Platypus Festival is held in Belgrave each year. For more information on the festival, or to help protect our native platypus, get in touch with the Platypus Education Group here.

You can also report any local platypus sightings with platypusSPOT here.