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Australia: Search for 2 found on train with platypus

Two people are being sought by police at a train station north of Brisbane, Australia, after they were found with a small platypus shot in a bath towel in their hands on Thursday.

Police say the mammal in the northern state of Queensland has been removed from its natural habitat and must be “released” as soon as possible.

“We are concerned for the welfare of this animal that has been removed from its natural environment,” Queensland Police Commissioner Scott Knowles told reporters.

Officials have also expressed concerns about poachers: the male platypus is venomous and has a spur that causes severe pain when it comes into contact with human flesh.

CCTV images taken on Tuesday show a man wearing flip-flops walking down the platform of a train station north of Brisbane, carrying the platypus – the size of a kitten – under his arm.

The man and woman then wrapped the animal in a bath towel and “knocked it off and showed it to other passengers,” police said.

Queensland conservation laws prohibit taking platypuses from the wild under a maximum fine of 430,000 Australian dollars (264,000 euros).

A nocturnal, shy animal, the platypus is one of the rarest egg-laying mammals, now found only in eastern Australia. It feeds on worms, insects and small crustaceans.

British scientists thought it was a hoax when they saw it in the late 18th century, with short tails like otter and duck beaks.

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