Meet Eve and Birra! Now part of the Walkabout Australia exhibit at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
There’s a strange, almost mythical creature that flashes in and out of streams in Australia. Many people have heard of it, but few have seen it. It’s a mammal, but it lays eggs, and it has a bill like a duck and a tail like a beaver. It is the platypus, a mysterious monotreme that appears by night to hunt and swim, then shelters deep in burrows to avoid the heat of the day—and its predators. This elusive master of the waterways is small in size, but large in status. The Safari Park is the only place you can see the platypus outside of Australia!
The platypus is a semiaquatic, 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 excellent swimmers, paddling with their front webbed feet and steering with their hind feet and tail. While swimming, folds of skin cover their eyes and ears to prevent water from entering, and their nostrils close with a watertight seal. They can remain submerged for about 20 to 40 seconds at a time.
Platypuses vary in size in different geographical regions, but they usually are about the size of a domestic cat. They typically measure between 12 and 24 inches long, and their weight ranges from 2 to 4 pounds. Eve, age 15, currently weighs about 2.5 pounds; and 8-year-old Birrarung (called “Birra”) weighs almost 3 pounds.
Eve and Birra were flown to San Diego from their home at Australia’s Taronga Zoo Sydney in late October, to serve as ambassadors for the species outside of their native Australia. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is currently the only zoo outside of Australia to house platypuses—and this is the first time in more than 50 years that platypuses have been cared for outside of Australia. The Nelson M. Millsberg Platypus Habitat at the Safari Park’s Walkabout Australia officially opened Nov. 22, 2019.
READ MORE about the Platypus at animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/platypus
For more information on the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s hours and tickets, go to sdzsafaripark.org