Two platypuses have been found decapitated in Australia, with wildlife officials Tuesday saying they were deliberately killed in "despicable" acts of cruelty.
Three of the rare mammals were discovered dead at a botanical gardens in the rural town of Albury in New South Wales, two with their heads cut off.
Local wildlife rescue provider Hazel Cook, who had the bodies inspected by a vet, told the Border Mail newspaper the deaths were "definitely" not caused by another animal.
"You can actually see where they’ve tried to cut into the vertebrae," she said, adding that there was no way to tell if they were alive when they were decapitated.
"We have no idea why anyone would do that, especially to something as gentle as a platypus."
The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Services said the platypuses had been found over the past five weeks.
"These animals appear to have been deliberately killed in a despicable act of cruelty to one of Australia’s most loved animals," a spokeswoman said.
The duck-bill platypus, a timid and nocturnal animal that lives in deep waterside burrows, is one of only two egg-laying mammals. It is found only in eastern Australia.
Harming native animals in Australia can result in fines of up to Aus$11,000 (US$8,200) or six months in jail.