The platypus guardian inspiring conservation across Australia

4 min.
A white-haired man crouches on the edge of a stream, pointing a Canon camera with a long white lens at the flowing water.

On the website, keyrings, sticker packs and greetings cards sit alongside beautiful photographic prints of the platypuses of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Each one is titled with its name: Little, Scoot, Rolo, Zoom, Fern and more. Because when you love an animal, you name it, right? And these animals are truly loved, which is why Pete Walsh, the founder of the Hobart Rivulet Platypus (HRP) community organisation wants to do everything in his power to protect and preserve this important endangered population.

His work reaches far beyond fundraising, although it is a $10,000 award from the Canon Grants Programme in Australia that has once again put Pete and the Hobart platypuses in the spotlight. It has been putting organisations like Pete’s to the people’s vote for seventeen years, awarding over half a million dollars in the process. Last year, the public voted for HRP to be the recipient of the coveted ‘Content Development Package’, which will provide equipment and funding to complete a short film called Becoming Platypus, helping this much-loved civic group to raise even further awareness of these fascinating, beautiful animals, which can only be found in the wild in Australia.

Pete discovered his passion for platypuses in 2020, when travel restrictions were put in place, and he was limited to within a five-kilometre radius of his home. So, the Hobart Rivulet – a short stretch of water that runs through his city – became a regular walking spot. However, on one of his walks, Pete made a terrible discovery; a platypus struggling in a web of discarded plastic netting. He was able to gently free the animal, but the experience shook him enough to establish the Hobart River Platypus community organisation, to try to change the state of this essential waterway. The platypus – now named Zoom – is now fit and well and immortalised in Pete’s beautiful prints in the HRP fundraising store.

A platypus swimming through brown water, alongside the concrete walls of the tributary.

The Hobart Rivulet runs through the city and the sight of swimming platypuses are common for local residents.

In the years that followed, Pete learned everything he could about the platypus population, and shared that knowledge with his community to inspire them to join his mission. Because the platypus is a rare beast – a freshwater carnivore and one of the last remaining monotremes (egg-laying mammals) on earth. They are not only a fascination for conservationists and animal lovers, but their venom – yes, they also give off a venom! – is seen by scientists as having the potential to help us learn more about treating diabetes!

So, Pete’s educational visits to schools and businesses are truly important. As are his campaigns on simple but effective actions that can prevent litter from finding its way into the waterways, and subsequently hurting the platypus population, who are now so familiar to Pete that they all have names. The measures he fights for are so simple that they have a catchy campaign behind them: Seize it, Snip it, Bin it! These easy and necessary actions could have prevented tragedy when a platypus named Larila (the word for platypus in palawa kani – the Tasmanian Aboriginal language) died from being tangled in litter in the rivulet.

Larila’s Legacy and Seize it, Snip it, Bin it! have become core to organisation’s educational programme around safe waste disposal, asking that residents dispose of litter effectively and cut up anything that could hurt an animal. They also campaign for lockable household waste bins to prevent dangerous refuse from finding its way into the rivulet. Pete himself carries scissors wherever he goes, routinely picking up litter and snipping everything from discarded hair bands to plastic bags so platypuses and other animals can’t become ensnared in them.

A platypus is held in the left hand of an unidentifiable person in blue overalls.

The tragic loss of Larila was the catalyst for HRP’s Larila’s Legacy programme and the Seize it, Snip it, Bin it! campaign.

The head and paw of a platypus as it peeks over a log.

Zoom is just one of the many platypuses that have captured the hearts of Australia through Pete’s awareness raising work.

Last year, Pete and the Hobart Rivulet Platypuses found a huge new fanbase from after featuring in a popular ABC documentary called The Platypus Guardian. And from this and the huge number of votes his organisation amassed in the Canon Grants Programme, it became crystal clear that the love for these animals was Australia-wide. “One thing the voting for the Canon grants programme showed was that people all-around Australia love platypuses,” said Pete, speaking to the Spotlight on Tasmania podcast. “I think they've got this aura of mystery around them. They are such an improbable creature that most people rarely see.”

The grant means Pete can continue his awareness raising work through photography and video, using the Canon products which also comprise the grant to document pollution and habitat damage for social media, as well as more ambitious projects such as completing the short film Becoming Platypus. It picks up where The Platypus Guardian left off, providing another rare glimpse into their secret world and telling the story of two adult female platypuses and the challenges their offspring face. 

With the support of the Canon Grant, Becoming Platypus is now earmarked for release in 2024 and Pete is understandably very excited for the reactions of the viewing public after such overwhelming positivity to all his work so far. “We hope that once released, Becoming Platypus will play an important role in platypus education programmes around Australia,” he says. “We are grateful to the community and Canon Oceania for this honour. Together with our monotreme friends, we say thank you!” 

For 17 years, the Canon Oceania Grants Programme has supported organisations seeking to better the future across communities and within education and the environment. This year it is the biggest it has ever been, receiving a record number of submissions, as it celebrated 50 years of Canon’s presence in Oceania.

All this year's winners, HRP included, are among a huge number of incredible organisations that make a tremendous difference in their local communities. The grants awarded by Canon Oceania help them to continue their great work, while the Canon products they also receive help them to amplify their voices and share their messages with a much wider audience.

Related

  • A Canon Medical Aquilion ONE / PRISM Edition CT scanner. On the scanner bed lies plastic covered cushions, on top of which are the fossilised bones of a dinosaur.

    Uncovering the secret lives of dinosaurs

    Palaeontologists at the Belgian Museum of Natural Sciences are using Canon Medical CT scanners to explore disease and injury in fossilised dinosaurs.

  • A surfer in shadow rides through an epic wave.

    Let there be…LIFE

    There's more to Canon than meets the eye. Read on to discover how our technology goes far beyond printers and cameras to support the life you lead everyday.

  • A close up of five coral polyps. They have short, soft looking green tentacles with fluorescent blue tips and give the impression of underwater movement.

    From commuter town to coral reef

    Hidden in a warehouse, a team of extraordinary people are bringing coral to life – both in a very literal sense and in the hearts and minds of people.