Thursday, 24 August 2017

Numbers shrinking for Tasmania's weird but much-loved giant freshwater lobster

Federal government calls for more areas to be placed in reserve to protect the huge crayfish, the world’s largest invertebrate

Friday 18 August 2017 23.07 BSTLast modified on Saturday 19 August 2017 00.30 BST

The federal government has called for more areas of north-west Tasmania to be placed in reserve as part of a conservation plan designed to protect the endangered giant freshwater crayfish.

The crayfish, Astacopsis gouldi, can weigh up to 6kg and live for 60 years. Commonly called the giant freshwater lobster, it is the largest invertebrate in the world and endemic to the cool rivers of northern Tasmania, although habitat restriction and poaching have forced it to retract to areas west of Launceston.

There is no official population count but researcher Todd Walsh, who has been studying the species for 20 years, says the numbers are less than 20% of what they would have been pre-colonisation.

Walsh said locals had a deep affection for the weird creatures, which have been known to turn up on the footpaths of country towns and in the middle of paddocks.

“There was a lady that used to open up a gate every year to let a lobster go down to her dam, and then a few months later it would be back, wanting to go the other way,” he said. “It was just sitting there at the gate.”

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