Forget the Hollywood thriller "Snakes on a Plane", an Australian man is in trouble for taking a platypus on a train.
Police launched a public appeal after the 26-year-old man, accompanied by a woman, was spotted on a suburban train with a wild platypus swaddled in a towel. The man, who faces court Saturday over alleged animal protection offences, is accused of removing the elusive critter from a waterway in northern Queensland and taking it on a train trip to a shopping centre.
"It will be further alleged the pair were observed showing the animal to members of the public at the shopping centre," Queensland police said in a statement.
Railway officers nabbed the man, and they have spoken to the woman who was with him, police said. But the platypus' fate is a mystery. "Police were advised the animal was released into the Caboolture River and has not yet been located by authorities," police said. "Its condition is unknown."
CCTV photos from Tuesday showed a man in flip-flops strolling along a train platform north of Brisbane while cradling the platypus - about the size of a kitten - under his arm.
The man and his female companion then wrapped it in a towel, "patting it and showing it to fellow commuters", police said. Under Queensland's conservation laws, it is illegal to take "one or more" platypus from the wild, with a maximum fine of Aus$430,000 (US$288,000).
"Taking a platypus from the wild is not only illegal, but it can be dangerous for both the displaced animal and the person involved if the platypus is male as they have venomous spurs," police said. "If you are lucky enough to see a platypus in the wild, keep your distance."
With stubby tails like a beaver and the bill of a duck, platypuses were famously seen as a hoax by British scientists encountering their first specimen in the late 18th century.
Platypuses are native to Australia's freshwater rivers and are part of a rare group of mammals - the monotremes - that lay eggs.