In a letter to the nature page of The Weekly Times in 1934, a little girl began by mentioning Splash, a most unusual pet.
Dear Charles Barrett – I am writing to tell you about Splash the platypus which belongs to my uncle, Mr Robert Eadie of Badger Creek, Healesville. Splash loves to play with a small mop. He will lie on his back and play with it. Uncle whistles and Splash knows at once that he is coming to the platypussary………. Wishing your page every success – Joan Eadie, Seymour, Vic.
ANSWER – Isn’t Splash a fascinating animal? I have seen him several times, and watched him playing with the mop. (Weekly Times, Sept. 15 1934)
Joan’s uncle Robert was the honorary curator at the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary in Victoria. As Joan mentioned, he had managed to befriend a platypus, one of the shyest creatures in the world.
When the little animal grabbed hold of the mop with his claws he could be lifted right out of the water, which he seemed to enjoy no end.
Mr Eadie had found Splash, thought to be about five months old, wandering in a maize field in February 1933. His object in keeping the creature in captivity was to research its habits, which were then little known.
Splash was fed on worms, grubs and, rather bizarrely, hard boiled eggs. However, his favourite food was tadpoles. Mr Eadie had built the little creature a home as close to its natural environment on a river bank as possible. There was a sleeping area with a bed of hay, which was connected to a swimming hole by a tunnel.
Speaking about his interactions with Splash, Mr Eadie told a reporter; ‘I put my hand near him and after a few minutes he will, in a very friendly manner, put his head into my hand. I then stroke him along the top and bottom of the bill, and. closing his eyes. he shows the utmost content.’ (Leader, April 13 1935)
Sadly, Splash died at the sanctuary on March 8 1937, after a normal day’s activity. It was believed at the time that he had succumbed to old age. but the lifespan of a platypus is believed to be about twenty years. The body was sent to the Institute of Anatomy in Canberra for mounting. According to their records it was later sent as a gift to Winston Churchill, who kept it on his desk. 😎
Robert Eadie swore he would never replace ‘Splash’, commenting; ‘We have found out, so far as we know, all there is to learn about a platypus, and there could be no other object for keeping a platypus in captivity, except for show purposes, and I am not prepared to do that.‘ Well said Mr Eadie.
In a strange co-incidence, Robert Eadie had another connection with Winston Churchill. Though Australian born, he was living in South Africa at the time of the Boer War and worked as a British Intelligence Officer. He was a member of the party that smuggled Churchill from the Boers at Vereeniging, hid him in a mine and returned him safely to the British lines.
CHURCHILL LATER REQUESTED THAT A LIVE PLATYPUS BE SENT TO HIM. HERE IS THE SAD STORY OF WINSTON PLATYPUS.
FOR A WEBSITE DEVOTED TO SPLASH, CLICK HERE.