(LONDON) — Police in Australia have urgently appealed to the public to help find a man who allegedly took a platypus from its natural environment and onto a train where he showed it off to fellow commuters.
The incident occurred on Tuesday morning at approximately 11 a.m. local time when surveillance cameras caught a man and a friend boarding a train at Morayfiled Station in Queensland, Australia, with a platypus wrapped in a towel, according to Queensland Police.
Authorities say the man holding the platypus was “patting it and showing it to fellow commuters” while they made their way toward the town of Caboolture. It is believed the man came across the animal somewhere in the Moreton district of Queensland and that he stole it from its natural environment.
“The animal may become sick, be diseased or die the longer is it out of the wild and should not be fed or introduced to a new environment,” Queensland Police said. “It may also have venomous spurs which can cause significant injury to people and animals.”
Officials from Queensland Police and Australia’s Department of Environment and Science made a joint appeal to the public for the animal’s surrender to a veterinarian’s office or police station as soon as possible.
“The animal’s timely surrender will ensure its welfare,” Queensland Police said in their statement. “The unlawful take and keep of a Platypus from the wild is a Class 1 offence under section 88 of the Nature Conservation Act 1992, that carries a maximum penalty of $431,250.”
The platypus’s conservation status is officially listed as “Near Threatened” both in Australia and internationally and it is believed that only 30,000 to 300,000 live in Australia, according to the Australian Platypus Conservancy.
The platypus — along with the echidna — are the only mammals in the world that that lay eggs, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The water-loving monotreme usually live alone in burrows they build by the banks of creeks, rivers or ponds and survive by eating shrimp, swimming beetles, water bugs and tadpoles.
Male platypuses are venomous and have a hollow spur on each hind leg connected to a venom secreting gland, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
While their venom is lethal, however, there have been no recorded deaths from platypuses or platypus stings.
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