Chilling with the platypodes: how we use the Earth's heat to keep our boys cool
Platypuses, or platypodes (not platypi, for the record) have long fascinated scientists and captured our imaginations. With their duck-like flippers and bills, a beaver-like tail, and the ability to lay eggs despite being a mammal, it’s safe to say that the platypus is truly special.
Not only are platypuses unique, but they are also elusive, foraging for food at dusk or overnight and returning to their underground burrows to sleep during the day. Having an underground home means that the temperature stays nice and cool, even during the warmer months. This is very important for the platypus, as they are sensitive to changes in temperature and their burrows need to stay below 25 degrees Celsius.
To replicate a burrow system our two male platypuses, Barak (20) and Aroona (6), have a series of nest boxes to choose from in their off-display area which are connected to their exhibit by a tunnel system. Since their nest boxes are not underground, we must keep them cool by other means.
In the past we have achieved this by air conditioning the area while the boys are asleep, however, we have recently trialled a new and exciting method for regulating the temperature while decreasing our carbon footprint.
In 2015 we began using geothermal energy to cool the water in the platypus’ tanks. Geothermal energy works by harnessing the heat beneath the earth’s crust and converting it into energy without the need to burn fossil fuels. Since the platypus tank water is already chilled to a comfy platypus-friendly temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, we figured that we could utilise this resource to cool their nest boxes as well.
“We designed a custom, dual-skinned aluminium tank that we are able to place the platypus nest boxes in while keeping them nice and dry.”
The void between the inner and outer walls of this tank is then filled with re-directed, chilled water that surrounds 5 sides of the nest boxes. This is topped off with a well-insulated lid to keep the heat out.
The result is a constant and comfortable internal temperature of 18-20 degrees Celsius, just the right temperature for our sleepy boys to waddle into bed after a busy day of foraging for worms and yabbies.
Be sure to stop in and visit Barak and Aroona during your next visit, and if you would like to learn more about geothermal energy, contact Alinta Energy.