A man in Australia is facing charges after he was accused of kidnapping a wild platypus and later showing it off at a shopping center, the police said on Thursday.
The 26-year-old man, accompanied by a woman, took the animal on Tuesday from a waterway in the town of Morayfield, north of Brisbane in the state of Queensland, the state police said. The pair were later seen boarding a train with the animal wrapped in a towel and showing it to other passengers, prompting the police to launch an appeal for the animal’s return.
Warning that the animal “may become sick, be diseased or die the longer is it out of the wild,” the police also noted that it may have “venomous spurs which can cause significant injury to people and animals.”
The man was found on Thursday and charged with taking an animal out of the wild and keeping it. He has not been named, in accordance with the department’s standard procedure. He is scheduled to appear in court on Saturday. The “take and keep” of a wild platypus carries a maximum penalty of about $289,000 under a 1992 law, the police said.
The Queensland Police Service said it was “advised” that the platypus had been released into a river near the shopping center, but that the local authorities had so far been unable to find it. The police service also said that the woman who accompanied the man on the platypus caper was now cooperating with an ongoing investigation. They did not release her name.
A police service spokeswoman said by phone that the agency had no additional comment.
The platypus is a semiaquatic, egg-laying mammal that is native to Australia, measures a foot or two, and has webbed feet and a duck-like bill. It is threatened by climate change, pollution and habitat loss, among other factors, and its population of adults — 300,000 or less — is declining.
In 2014, the I.U.C.N., a conservation organization based in Britain, listed the platypus as a “near-threatened” species — one notch below “vulnerable” and two below “endangered.”
Platypuses are cute, but not cuddly: Males have spurs on their back legs that secrete a toxin that, while not strong enough to kill a human, can cause swelling and pain that can last for months.
“If you are lucky enough to see a platypus in the wild, keep your distance,” the Queensland Police Service said on Thursday.