An informative monthly newsletter about successes & important announcements in koala conservation, and the latest scientific publications about koalas.

February, 2021

Subscribe here: https://mailchi.mp/808fc4af1ee0/koala-news-science


Great Koala National Park will generate $1.2billion 2 February

University of Newcastle study showed that the park, proposed for Mid North Coast NSW, would generate $1.2billion and $1.7billion in biodiversity value, create 9,800 new jobs and protect around 20% of the NSW koala population.

Bangalow Koalas receive large WWF grant to plant 100,000 trees, NSW 2 February

WWF Australia announced a massive grant of $1.2million to fund the planting of 100,000 koala and rainforest trees around Bangalow/Byron Bay over 3 years.

Greens introduce bill to stop koala habitat destruction 15 February

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young introduced the koala bill to federal parliament, calling for a stop to all development approvals on koala habitat.

Koala stiles (pole bridges) to be built over Oxley Hwy NSW 18 February

Port Macquarie-Hastings Council are planning to build new structures to encourage koalas to climb over the highway.

Search for Australia’s favourite eucalypt! 24 February

Charitable trust, Eucalypt Australia, are running a vote for Australia’s eucalypt of the year. The winner will be announced on National Eucalypt Day 23 March. Vote here: https://www.eucalyptaustralia.org.au/eucalyptoftheyear/

“If we can’t save koalas, can we save ourselves?”  6 February

Big article in Good Weekend summarised the koala situation, & interviewed/quoted many in koala world: Dr Stuart Blanch WWF, Dr Steve Phillips Biolink, Dr Kellie Leigh Science For Wildlife, Cheyne Flanagan Koala Hospital, Prof Danielle Celermajer University of Sydney, Evan Quartermain HSI , A/Prof Mathew Crowther, MP Cate Faehrmann, Dr Kara Youngentob ANU, Dr Valentina Mella University of Sydney, and the Open Letter to Sussan Ley was cited.

Volunteers helping koalas on Mornington Peninsula get state government support VIC 16 February

Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation will share in Volunteering Innovation Fund grant from Victorian State Government.

HSI outlines what government is doing to EPBC act and why it won’t work. 19 February

Excellent HSI International blog about Prof Graeme Samuel’s recommendations for the EPBC act, and what government is planning to do with it. Also a link to take action and send a letter.

Roads fragment Port Stephens koalas 20 February

New report by OWAD Environment and WWF Australia shows the effect of large highways on the population of koalas around Port Stephens NSW.

MDPI journal Animals running a Special Issue on Health & Diseases of Koalas.

The special issue of the science journal is open access, so everyone in the koala field can view the whole paper, and offers rapid publication for authors – beneficial for critical data that could impact a threatened species. https://www.mdpi.com/journal/animals/special_issues/health_Koalas

Queensland Council buys land for koalas NSW 5 February

City of Logan have purchased 212 hectares of remnant bushland at Greenbank adjoining Cockatiel Park & Platypus Reserve, with the intention of creating an environmental reserve for koalas and other wildlife.

World-first genome sequencing program for koalas 11 February

University of Sydney scientists Dr Kathy Belov & Dr Carolyn Hogg have begun the first genome sequencing program for koalas.

Supporting koalas on mid North Coast NSW 16 February

Myall Koala & Environment Group, near Port Stephens, plant koala trees, remove invasive weeds and run an annual tree giveaway program.

Scientists: We can stop koala extinction 17 February

ABC interviewed prominent koala scientists Frank Carrick, Christine Adams-Hosking, Bill Ellis and Peter Timms about priorities for saving koalas from extinction. At the top: Stopping habitat loss.

IUCN calls for scientists and carers to stop sharing pics of themselves with their study animals. 19 January

The global conservation authority has introduced new guidelines for those working with primates – calling on them to stop sharing images that depict themselves in close contact with their charges. Studies have shown that these images fuel public misconceptions. Though these guidelines relate to primates, could the same be true for koalas?

Building industry & TV chips in to build Kangaroo Island koala hospital, SA 3 February

Local South Australian building industry donated materials and TV show The Block provided the labour to build a new koala hospital at Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park.

Coffs Council hoping to build fencing to protect koalas along busy road NSW 12 February

13 koalas have been killed crossing Hogbin Drive, Coffs Harbour so Council are seeking funding to build an exclusion fence.



Quigley BL, Timms P. The Koala Immune Response to Chlamydial Infection and Vaccine Development—Advancing Our Immunological Understanding. Animals. 2021; 11(2):380. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020380


Chlamydia is a significant pathogen for many species, including the much-loved Australian marsupial, the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). To combat this situation, focused research has gone into the development and refinement of a chlamydial vaccine for koalas. The foundation of this process has involved characterising the immune response of koalas to both natural chlamydial infection as well as vaccination. From parallels in human and mouse research, it is well-established that an effective anti-chlamydial response will involve a balance of cell-mediated Th1 responses involving interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), humoral Th2 responses involving systemic IgG and mucosal IgA, and inflammatory Th17 responses involving interleukin 17 (IL-17) and neutrophils. Characterisation of koalas with chlamydial disease has shown increased expression within all three of these major immunological pathways and monitoring of koalas’ post-vaccination has detected further enhancements to these key pathways. These findings offer optimism that a chlamydial vaccine for wider distribution to koalas is not far off. Recent advances in marsupial genetic knowledge and general nucleic acid assay technology have moved koala immunological research a step closer to other mammalian research systems. However, koala-specific reagents to directly assay cytokine levels and cell-surface markers are still needed to progress our understanding of koala immunology.


Griffith, J.E., Stephenson, T., McLelland, D.J., and Woolford, L., Hypertrophic osteopathy in South Australian koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) with concurrent pulmonary actinomycosis. https://doi.org/10.1111/avj.13052


Pulmonary actinomycosis is described in 17 South Australian koalas necropsied between 2016 and 2019. From these cases, four koalas had secondary hypertrophic osteopathy. Plain radiographical and computed tomography images demonstrated periosteal reaction on multiple appendicular skeletal bones in all cases, including scapula, humerus, ulna, radius, ilium, femur, tibia, fibula, metacarpus, metatarsus and phalanx. Grossly, periosteal surfaces of the metaphyses and diaphyses of long bones were thickened and roughened; microscopically, this was characterised by bi‐layered proliferation of well‐differentiated trabecular bony spicules oriented perpendicular to the cortex (pseudocortices) and separated by vascular connective tissue, typical for hypertrophic osteopathy. Well characterised in domestic species and rarely reported in marsupials, this is the first radiographical and pathological characterisation of hypertrophic osteopathy in koalas, associated with pulmonary actinomycosis in all cases.


Godfree, R.C., Knerr, N., Encinas-Viso, F. et al. Implications of the 2019–2020 megafires for the biogeography and conservation of Australian vegetation. Nat Commun 12, 1023 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-21266-5


Australia’s 2019–2020 ‘Black Summer’ bushfires burnt more than 8 million hectares of vegetation across the south-east of the continent, an event unprecedented in the last 200 years. Here we report the impacts of these fires on vascular plant species and communities. Using a map of the fires generated from remotely sensed hotspot data we show that, across 11 Australian bioregions, 17 major native vegetation groups were severely burnt, and up to 67–83% of globally significant rainforests and eucalypt forests and woodlands. Based on geocoded species occurrence data we estimate that >50% of known populations or ranges of 816 native vascular plant species were burnt during the fires, including more than 100 species with geographic ranges more than 500 km across. Habitat and fire response data show that most affected species are resilient to fire. However, the massive biogeographic, demographic and taxonomic breadth of impacts of the 2019–2020 fires may leave some ecosystems, particularly relictual Gondwanan rainforests, susceptible to regeneration failure and landscape-scale decline.


Tarlinton, R.E., Fabijan, J., Hemmatzadeh, F. et al. Transcriptomic and genomic variants between koala populations reveals underlying genetic components to disorders in a bottlenecked population. Conserv Genet (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-021-01340-7


Historical hunting pressures on koalas in the southern part of their range in Australia have led to a marked genetic bottleneck when compared with their northern counterparts. There are a range of suspected genetic disorders such as testicular abnormalities, oxalate nephrosis and microcephaly reported at higher prevalence in these genetically restricted southern animals. This paper reports analysis of differential expression of genes from RNAseq of lymph nodes, SNPs present in genes and the fixation index (population differentiation due to genetic structure) of these SNPs from two populations, one in south east Queensland, representative of the northern genotype and one in the Mount Lofty Ranges South Australia, representative of the southern genotype. SNPs that differ between these two populations were significantly enriched in genes associated with brain diseases. Genes which were differentially expressed between the two populations included many associated with brain development or disease, and in addition a number associated with testicular development, including the androgen receptor. Finally, one of the 8 genes both differentially expressed and with a statistical difference in SNP frequency between populations was SLC26A6 (solute carrier family 26 member 6), an anion transporter that was upregulated in SA koalas and is associated with oxalate transport and calcium oxalate uroliths in humans. Together the differences in SNPs and gene expression described in this paper suggest an underlying genetic basis for several disorders commonly seen in southern Australian koalas, supporting the need for further research into the genetic basis of these conditions, and highlighting that genetic selection in managed populations may need to be considered in the future.



Connie Wan Hui Chong, Carmen Espinosa-Gongora, Patrick J. Blackall, Holly A. Sinclair, Anders M. Bojesen, Lida Omaleki, and Conny Turni Molecular identification of members of the family Pasteurellaceae from the oral cavity of koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) and their relationship with isolates from koala bite wounds in humans. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 51(4), 771-779, (12 January 2021). https://doi.org/10.1638/2020-0041

Kayesh MEH, Hashem MA, Maetani F, Eiei T, Mochizuki K, Ochiai S, Ito A, Ito N, Sakurai H, Asai T, Tsukiyama-Kohara K. CD4, CD8b, and Cytokines Expression Profiles in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells Infected with Different Subtypes of KoRV from Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) in a Japanese Zoo. Viruses. 2020; 12(12):1415. https://doi.org/10.3390/v12121415



João C. Teixeira, Christian D. Huber (2021) The inflated significance of neutral genetic diversity in conservation genetics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Mar 2021, 118 (10) e2015096118; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2015096118


The current rate of species extinction is rapidly approaching unprecedented highs, and life on Earth presently faces a sixth mass extinction event driven by anthropogenic activity, climate change, and ecological collapse. The field of conservation genetics aims at preserving species by using their levels of genetic diversity, usually measured as neutral genome-wide diversity, as a barometer for evaluating population health and extinction risk. A fundamental assumption is that higher levels of genetic diversity lead to an increase in fitness and long-term survival of a species. Here, we argue against the perceived importance of neutral genetic diversity for the conservation of wild populations and species. We demonstrate that no simple general relationship exists between neutral genetic diversity and the risk of species extinction. Instead, a better understanding of the properties of functional genetic diversity, demographic history, and ecological relationships is necessary for developing and implementing effective conservation genetic strategies.


Past Koala News & Science here: https://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/koala-news-science/koala-news-science-january-2021/

Produced by Janine Duffy
Koala Clancy Foundation

& Cheryl Egan

Please email content to: president@koalaclancyfoundation.org.au