I’ve been looking out for Rakali for a while now, ever since my wonderful assistant Matt found a yabby claw out on the creek bank while we were doing water testing at Lizard Crossing. I was told that water-rats (or rakali) like to take their food out onto the bank to eat.
Unfortunately, the first one I saw was dead. So was the second one.
I was walking the dog at Yass Gorge, enjoying the restoration work that’s been done there in the last couple of years. I noticed a couple of places where people had made paths down to the river’s edge, to swim or perhaps to fish.
On the way back, I saw two big dead furry things lying in the grass. My mind thought “Rats!” and I jumped away, surprising the dog. Then I looked more closely at the webbed feet and white tail, and realized that although they were rodents (as are rats, porcupines, beavers, and guinea-pigs) they were also the Australian native rakali.
Rakali (hydromys chrysogaster) eat fish and crustaceans and are more like the European otters than the sewer rats (rattus norvegicus) people often think they are. In fact they will eat rattus for breakfast.
Using the name “Rakali” has been started as an attempt to break the mental connection with rats. In Europe, their “water rat” is really a vegetarian vole, and the usage is changing to “water vole” there, so why would we continue to call ours “water rats”.
Like platypus rakali are very shy, but are much less well known. These two were unmarked but very wet, probably drowned in an “Opera house” shaped yabby trap, which are notorious for drowning platypus too. Presumably the person who set it had no idea what they were or why they were in the yabby trap. It should be illegal to sell the over-sized traps that cause such tragedies. It is illegal to use them except in farm dams, yet Anglers Warehouse sells them online labelled “Australia’s favourite net!”
I looked at the beautiful new signage at the entry to Yass Gorge.
Nothing about rakali or how avoid trapping them and platypus. I think it could be time for an information blitz at popular river fishing spots to let people know the truth. Time to talk to the local council.