Co-founder of Platypus House and Seahorse World; Tasmanian of the Year 1997 and awarded the Centenary Medal for Services to the Australian Society of Marine Sciences.
Emeritus Professor Nigel Forteath's ground breaking research into breeding seahorses in captivity has ensured a sustainable future for this species.
The Platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, in Tasmania is not particularly uncommon, which is not surprising given the great number of lakes, farm dams and creeks. However, this monotreme is listed as 'vulnerable' by the Parks and Wildlife authorities.
Attempts at keeping platypuses in captivity in Tasmania have failed in the past. However, careful research by staff at Platypus House has shown that these animals can settle into a captive environment well.
The next step in the R & D is to devise a protocol for breeding Tasmanian platypuses. Plans are well advanced for the commencement of the trial and first attempts took place in the spring of 2004, and are continuing. The facilities for the trials include a feeding pool and a 20,000L play pool with ample space for land based activities such as digging and nest building. Carefully placed cameras will enable researchers to watch behaviour over a 24hr period.
If breeding is achieved, subsequent attempts will be focussed on the possibility of obtaining colostrum from mother's milk since this may hold the key to the production of antibodies which protect mainland platypuses from the fungal disease Mucor amphibiorum which kills Tasmanian platypuses. The assistance of mainland platypus holding facilities will be sought in this project.