The San Diego Zoo Safari Park welcomed on Friday the arrival of two platypuses — the only ones in any zoo outside the endangered animals’ native Australia.
The two platypuses were flown to San Diego from their home at Taronga Zoo Sydney in late October, and made their debut with the official opening of the Nelson M. Millsberg Platypus Habitat at the Safari Park’s Walkabout Australia.
It is the first time in more than 50 years that platypuses have been introduced to a zoo outside of Australia.
“All of us at San Diego Zoo Global are extremely honored and excited to welcome the platypus to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park,” said Paul A. Baribault, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global.
“Millions of people will see these two animals here, will marvel at the amazing diversity of wildlife and, through this feeling of respect and awe, will recommit to taking conservation action that will save species around the world,” he added.
The two platypuses are an 8-year-old male named Birrarung and a 15-year-old female named Eve. To care for the unusual species, three Safari Park keepers and a veterinarian traveled to Australia to train in platypus husbandry and health care.
The Safari Park’s new platypus habitat includes three pools, naturalistic river banks, extensive tunnels and nesting areas. The habitat was built more than a year ago, in anticipation of the platypuses’ arrival, through the generous gifts of more than 500 donors.
The platypus is a semi-aquatic, egg-laying mammal found along the eastern coast of Australia, within the states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. They live in freshwater streams, creeks and rivers.
Platypuses are unique in appearance, having a long snout resembling a duck’s bill, a beaver-like tail, webbed feet and dense fur. They are most active during dusk and nighttime hours, and they generally sleep during the day.
To allow Safari Park guests the best possible viewing opportunity and also provide an optimum environment for the platypuses, the lighting cycle in their habitat has been reversed so it mimics nighttime during daylight hours and daytime during nighttime hours
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