Australian Reptile Park general manager Tim Faulkner has milked many of the world’s most dangerous snakes and spiders for their venom*.
Now he can add platypus to his feats of venomous milking after participating in a first ever extraction* of monotreme* venom at the Central Coast zoo.
The venom will be sent off to universities throughout Sydney in hopes of finding the next miracle cure.
Most Australians are familiar with the duck-billed platypus, one of the world’s only monotremes or egg-laying mammals.
But many people would be unaware the male platypus has a venomous spur on one of its hind legs.
The large spur inflicts an excruciatingly* painful sting but is not lethal* to humans.
The Australian Reptile Park is the only zoo in Australia to milk dangerous snakes and spiders to produce lifesaving antivenene*.
But Mr Faulkner said the task of milking a platypus was a “completely different kettle of fish”.
“We milk hundreds of snakes and spiders weekly here at the park, but milking a platypus, this is a first,” he said.
“I’ve never been caught on the receiving end of a platypus spur and I never want to.
“There is no antivenene available for the platypus at this time so you just have to sit and wait the pain out — today we participated in a very dangerous job.
“This kind of research is vital to moving forward with medicine. You never know what properties lie within this kind of venom, especially the venom of a mammal as there aren’t many mammals with venom in the entire world”
The platypus venom will be sent to universities across Sydney to see if it holds any properties that could prove useful in medicines.
Mr Faulkner said animal venoms have been researched and used in medicines to assist in many medical ailments including Taipan venom being used to help with stroke victims, venom from the poisonous lizard the Gila monster being used to help cure diabetes and pit vipers contributing to pain killers.
Once the milking was complete, Yaro, the platypus was released back into his pond for a swim.
venom: a poisonous substance secreted by animals such as snakes, spiders, and scorpions.
extraction: the action of removing something.
monotreme: a primitive mammal that lays large yolky eggs.
excruciatingly: extremely painful
antivenene: a medicine that fights poison
LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY
Activity 1: Using new vocabulary
Time: Allow 20 minutes
Write an interesting paragraph that contains all of these vocabulary words from the article:
Extension: Choose 3 more interesting words from the article and come up with some alternative words that could be used in their place.
Curriculum links: English
Activity 2: Comparing monotremes
Time: Allow 30 minutes
We learnt from the story that the platypus is a monotreme. Echidnas are also monotremes. Do some research about these animals and make a list of things that they have in common and things that are different.
Extension: Display your findings from the main activity in a table or Venn diagram. Include some pictures to visually show some of the similarities or differences.
Curriculum links: English, Science
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalists has used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?