Camphor laurels and Platypus

PLATYPUS IN THE NORTHERN RIVERS - Absence and Population Declines correlated to Camphor tree invasion of streams.


A growing realisation of problems for this emblematic species is dawning on natural historians and landholders who regularly use or visit remnant natural waterways of northern New South Wales; some platypus have found safety inhabiting farm dams! Necessary change/s in thinking as to why Platypus are now so uncommon need to take into account all of the following:-


Incident 1. Following a Queensland Gold Coast newspaper report of a mass death of Platypus on or near the banks of a tributary of the Coomera River (September 2002), telephone investigations revealed that those parts of the Coomera River catchment heavily infested by Camphor Laurel are known to have no significant Platypus population/s remaining (in those parts); Camphor Laurels are implicated in causing a steep in-stream decline to available food (eg Frogs and Freshwater Mussels), supplies for Platypus and other aquatic vertebrates.

Incident 2. Key informants and landholders west of Kyogle (Afterlee) reported in interviews that many Platypus died in a flood in 1988 downstream of a seriously Camphor Laurel infested section of Richmond River catchment tributary (S.Cullen, NP&WS Adviser).

Incident 3. Numerous Platypus died in the drought of 2002-03 in Goolmangar Creek, as the waterway holes stopped flowing, downstream of severe Camphor Laurel infestation. (NB: It is known, due to these trees' enormous demand for water, to keep producing so many/much toxins in all-their plant-parts, that creeks will dry-up faster if, and where infested over the creek/ephemeral stream banks, within 50-100 metres laterally away!)

Bruce Chick's Report
Tree planter extraordinaire and Patron of Australia's Camphor Laurel Research Centre, the venerable Bruce Chick, who is now 92 years old, is NSW's oldest living anti-Camphor Laurel campaigner, living at Murwillumbah, says: "Wherever I have experienced 'relatively pristine creeks and river stretches' there exist good sized Fish and Platypus.'

'Wherever Camphor Laurel trees infest the creek banks, you find NO PLATYPUS, and usually only the odd, small Bass or Mullet, with an occasional Tortoise,' says Bruce.

Mr. Chick was the first environmentalist in Australia, resident at that time in Sydney, to be instrumental at making sure that one suburban council, Kuring-gai,, took-the-lead 'against the weed', to be the first Australian Council( in 1976) to designate Camphor Laurels 'noxious'.

Bruce Chick bases his assessment of Camphor toxification on extensive and wide-ranging observations around the Northern-Rivers' Region, as well as on most named streams in Tweed Shire, remote areas of the Richmond, Macleay and 0xley Rivers, studying/comparing 'infested' and 'uninfested' sites.

His findings fit in well with the newly researched scientific determination that most Camphor toxins are exuded from bark and roots (CSIRO 1987 ; and Kew Botanic Gardens 1999) - as well as the facts now revealed from East Asian 'Camphor countries' where in no circumstances are/is Camphor allowed to invade river or stream environments/habitats.