More rakali found dead in nets

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A rakali or native water rat. The rodents are at risk from illegal opera house traps.

People are again being warned about the deadly risks of illegal opera house traps.

In early June, two rakali (native water rats) were found dead inside an opera house yabby trap in an irrigation channel near Kerang.

They were discovered by the landowners whose property the channel runs through.

Geoff Williams from the Australian Platypus Conservancy said a total of nine abandoned traps were recovered from the short section of channel.

“The landowners have reported this is a frequent occurrence,” Mr Williams said.

“They can’t lock access to the channel off because Goulburn-Murray Water needs to access it, and it’s near a road.

“We think the practice of chucking nets into the channels is quite common here, because traditionally they were quite good for yabbying. Why people abandon their traps, I don’t know.”

In addition to the two rakali found by the landowner, there were also three freshwater turtles found drowned in the nets.

“Enclosed yabby nets are totally banned in Victoria because of the risk to native wildlife,” Mr Williams said.

“Multiple deaths of both rakali and platypus have been recorded in these traps.

“Enclosed traps became illegal in 2019.”

Opera house nets are banned in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, and their future is being reviewed in Queensland.

In 2018, there was an incident in Gannawarra where seven dead rakali were found inside a single trap.

The 2018 incident, where seven dead rakali were found inside an illegal trap in Gannawarra. Photo by Platypus Conservancy

“There is significant evidence that rakali numbers have declined in many places, especially in Victoria’s irrigation districts where the plastic-lining of many main channels have reduced foraging habitat for the species,” Mr Williams said.

“The unnecessary deaths of multiple water rats can potentially tip the balance against the long-term survival of a local rakali population.”

The rakali (pronounced ra-kay-ly) are sometimes known as the ‘Australian otter’ and are apex predators in Australia’s water systems.

The rodents live in burrows on the banks of rivers and lakes and feed on aquatic insects.