KOALA NEWS & SCIENCE
An informative monthly newsletter about successes & important announcements in koala conservation, and the latest scientific publications about koalas.
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End to native forest logging in Victoria! 23 May
Victoria will finally shut down native forest logging by 1 January 2024. Conservation groups, including members of the Victorian Forest Alliance, celebrated the historic win. Some of the groups and individuals had been working towards this for 40 years.
Wild Koala Day hits the big time
3 May 2023, Wild Koala Day, appeared on the Google search engine all day. Wild Koala Day is also listed on Wikipedia, and was covered all over the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_environmental_dates
National Koala Conference success!
3 days, 300 participants, informative presentations from Australia’s top scientists, rehabilitators, veterinarians, conservation groups. Koala Conservation Australia is to be congratulated for an impressive event, held in Port Macquarie NSW 26-28 May 2023.
Koala News & Science tweeted regularly from the event, see some of the highlights here: https://twitter.com/science_koala #koalaconference
Koala Alliance Victoria launches 3 May
A new working group of koala advocates in Victoria launched on Wild Koala Day, with a mission to improve the protection of koalas in the state.
Victorian Koala Management Strategy finally released 8 May
Without so much as a press release, the Victorian government released the long-awaited Koala Management Strategy. The new strategy can be found here: https://www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/our-wildlife/koalas
Vaccine exceeds expectations in Gold Coast koalas QLD 22 May
The chlamydia vaccine pioneered by the Queensland University of Technology is showing positive results, with all the vaccinated koalas chlamydia-free after 12 months.
Chlamydia vaccine trial in Northern Rivers NSW 11 May
Field trials of the University of Sunshine Coast single-shot vaccine have begun on wild koalas in northern NSW. The study aims to catch, vaccinate and monitor 50 koalas.
New study finds marsupials more evolved than placentals 2 May
The study compared 3D images of animal brains to the hypothetical common ancestor, and found the marsupial brains had changed more than the placental brains.
Koala tree plantations are being used by koalas NSW 6 May
Trees planted 2 years ago by Bangalow Koalas with the support of IFAW have been used by koalas.
Koala tree planting in Gympie Qld 27 May
Koala Action Gympie Region and Mari Valley Rail Trail Assoc ran a tree planting day at Imbil on 27 May
Record koala body temperatures documented Gunnedah NSW 11 May
Koalas in Gunnedah in January 2020 had the highest body temperatures ever recorded for wild koalas, up to 40.8C. The dangerously-high temperatures were found as part of a University of Sydney study about the link between high ambient temperatures and koala mortality. https://cosmosmagazine.com/nature/animals/its-not-just-land-clearing-putting-koalas-at-risk/
Calls to protect northern NSW from logging 22 May
Forestry NSW plans to log Braemar State Forest, an area with a high number of koalas. NEFA is calling on all to write urgently to new Environment Minister Penny Sharp to stop the harvesting.
Local groups are also calling for Forestry NSW to halt in Pine Creek SF.
Covenant for koala habitat NSW 18 May
First private land conservation agreement for koalas signed in NSW. The Collaborative Koala Habitat Protection agreements are a partnership between WWF, Biodiversity Conservation Trust and NSW DPE.
Latest Koala Science:
Terraube, J., Gardiner, R., Hohwieler, K., Frère, C.H. and Cristescu, R.H., 2023. Protected area coverage has a positive effect on koala occurrence in Eastern Australia. Biodiversity and Conservation, pp.1-17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-023-02615-w
Protected areas (PAs) are crucial conservation tools implemented worldwide to conserve biodiversity. Although PAs can positively impact wildlife populations, their ecological outcomes vary substantially depending on PA management and governance. Recent calls have highlighted the need to better assess the role of area-based conservation in preventing biodiversity loss. This is crucial to improve PA effectiveness in order to meet global biodiversity goals. Here we take advantage of a unique dataset composed of 2230 surveys conducted with koala detection dogs across Eastern Australia, to assess how protection status affected the occurrence of a threatened specialist folivore. We assessed if coverage of protected forest influenced koala presence or absence at two spatial scales (1 and 3 km), for (i) strictly and (ii) all protected areas. We also investigated if PA effects were explained by differences in habitat composition (percentage of secondary forest) between protected and unprotected areas. Taking confounding factors into account, we showed that forest protection (all IUCN categories) had a significant positive effect on koala occurrence, which increased by ~ 10% along the forest protection gradient. Contrarily, koala occurrence was not affected by strictly protected areas. In addition, adding the percentage of secondary forests in our models did not modify the statistical effect of PAs on koala occurrence, suggesting that forest composition is not the driver of the observed difference along the protection gradient. Our results contribute to a broader understanding of the effects of PAs on a threatened marsupial and call for further attention to assessments of PA effectiveness in Eastern Australia, a global biodiversity hotspot.
Colombelli-Négrel, D., Sach, I.Z., Hough, I., Hodgson, J.C., Daniels, C.B. and Kleindorfer, S., 2023. Koalas showed limited behavioural response and no physiological response to drones. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, p.105963. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2023.105963
Drones have become a popular conservation tool especially when monitoring cryptic species or species inhabiting locations difficult to access. We developed a non-invasive methodology to measure heart rate in koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) using a Fitbit and investigated the behavioural (vigilance behaviour) and physiological (heart rate and breathing rate) responses of captive koalas to drones. We showed for the first time that heart rate values in koalas can be accurately obtained with a Fitbit. Koalas responded to a drone flight conducted 15 m above their heads with a short-term increase in vigilance, but no change in heart rate or breathing rate. Our results suggest that drones may not have long-term detrimental effects on koalas’ fitness or energy demands and adds to the growing literature investigating animals’ responses to drones to help develop best practices for drone monitoring.
Wright, B.R., Jelocnik, M., Casteriano, A., Muir, Y.S., Legione, A.R., Vaz, P.K., Devlin, J.M. and Higgins, D.P., 2023. Development of diagnostic and point of care assays for a gammaherpesvirus infecting koalas. PloS one, 18(6), p.e0286407. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0286407
The recent listing of koala populations as endangered across much of their range has highlighted the need for better management interventions. Disease is a key threat to koala populations but currently there is no information across the threatened populations on the distribution or impact of a gammaherpesvirus, phascolarctid gammaherpesvirus 1 (PhaHV-1). PhaHV-1 is known to infect koalas in southern populations which are, at present, not threatened. Current testing for PhaHV-1 involves lengthy laboratory techniques that do not permit quantification of viral load. In order to better understand distribution, prevalence and impacts of PhaHV-1 infections across koala populations, diagnostic and rapid point of care tests are required. We have developed two novel assays, a qPCR assay and an isothermal assay, that will enable researchers, clinicians and wildlife managers to reliably and rapidly test for PhaHV-1 in koalas. The ability to rapidly diagnose and quantify viral load will aid quarantine practices, inform translocation management and guide research into the clinical significance and impacts of PhaHV-1 infection in koalas.
Mo, M., Lee, E., Radosavljevic, I. and Auerbach, N., 2023. Database records of koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) in northern Sydney. Australian Mammalogy. https://doi.org/10.1071/AM22035
This study examined records of koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) in northern Sydney held in online biodiversity databases. There were 221 unique records distributed across the Northern Beaches, Ku-ring-gai, Hornsby and Hills Shire local government areas from 1788 to 2022, with records from the Northern Beaches local government area comprising 68% of this dataset. Records from the 1970s represented 41% of the dataset (90 records), while there were only 42 records from 2000 to 2022. Post-2000 records were spread broadly, showing no major contraction in distribution compared to the spread of earlier records, but with a notable absence of more recent records on the Barrenjoey Peninsula, a previously documented species stronghold. Substantial proportions of records were found in both protected reserves and privately-owned lands, which alludes to the value of the former but also shows that koala conservation in this capital city cannot rely solely on protected reserves. The 2000–22 records were widely distributed across 15 plant community types and areas of non-native vegetation, probably reflecting breeding and dispersal movements more than specific habitat selection. Possibly due to the same influences, none of the 2000–22 records were matched to areas represented by the Koala Habitat Suitability Model, a prediction model for spatial distribution of potential koala habitat across NSW, with a high habitat suitability score (greater than 0.85). We therefore recommend systematic on-ground surveys to clarify the patterns observed from the records.
Koala Science in Brief:
Omaleki, L., Blyde, D., Hanger, J., Loader, J., McKay, P., Lobo, E., Harris, L.M., Nicolson, V., Blackall, P.J. and Turni, C., 2023. LONEPINELLA SP. ISOLATED FROM WOUND INFECTIONS OF KOALAS. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. https://doi.org/10.7589/JWD-D-22-00096
Jones, A., Pratt, C., Meili, C., Soo, R.M., Hugenholtz, P., Elshahed, M. and Youssef, N.H., 2023. Anaerobic gut fungal communities in marsupial hosts. bioRxiv, pp.2023-05.
Previous Koala News & Science here: http://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/koala-news-science/april-2023/
Written by Janine Duffy President, Koala Clancy Foundation.
with support from Cheryl Egan, Organiser, Wild Koala Day.
Please send your positive, important news & publications to firstname.lastname@example.org before 29th of each month for possible inclusion.