KOALA NEWS & SCIENCE
An informative monthly newsletter about successes & important announcements in koala conservation, and the latest scientific publications about koalas.
Subscribe here: https://mailchi.mp/808fc4af1ee0/koala-news-science
Senate to block fed govt attempt to hand environmental approvals to states 27 November
3 crossbench senators have said they will block a government bill to weaken the EPBC act by handing responsibility to the states. Crossbench senators felt the government were hiding important details from the senate.
Review of forestry in NSW after EPA stands up against Forestry Dept. 27 November
NSW government are planning a review of forestry operations after the EPA issued several stop work orders against state-owned Forestry Corporation for breaches of licence in bushfire-affected areas.
WWF launch Regenerate Australia & Koalas Forever 21 October
WWF have launched a $300million plan for revegetation, koala protection, renewable energy and innovation. They say its the biggest investment in nature regeneration in Australia’s history.
Port Stephens community to help koala research NSW 10 November
Researchers from University of Newcastle, supported by FAUNA Research Alliance have launched a community survey to help develop an overview of the koala population around Port Stephens.
Find the survey here: https://faunaresearchalliance.com/fauna/projects/koala/#
Koala News & Science gets a regular radio timeslot! 4 November
Author Janine Duffy has been invited as a regular guest on The Sustainable Hour radio, part of the Centre For Climate Safety podcast. Janine will present a rundown of the top koala news & science on the show, on the first Wednesday of every month at 11am-12 noon.
Call for Mornington Peninsula residents to join koala corridor, VIC 4 November
Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation call on landowners in Somers to join their planned koala biolink
First Koala seen in reserve in far north Queensland in over a decade 16 November
A male koala was seen at Yourka, a Bush Heritage reserve west of Tully, the first seen in the area for over a decade.
Community survey about koalas around Blue Mountains 19 November
Science For Wildlife have launched a community survey to assess attitudes towards protecting koalas.
Koalas feature in Lonely Planet award for Australia 16 November
Australia won the Lonely Planet Best In Travel Award for Community Restoration, and efforts to assist koalas after the Black Summer bushfires were the highlighted. Koala News & Science author Janine Duffy was the main spokesperson for Australia.
Koala Wars are on again in NSW 20 November
Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack sacked after crossing the floor to vote against government bill. The controversial LLS is now scrapped and will be re-drafted.
Federal Government Announces Funding for Koalas 23 November
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced new funding for koala health, population research and revegetation. The plan has been widely criticised as yet another stalling tactic.
LATEST KOALA SCIENCE
Witt RR, Beranek CT, Howell LG, Ryan SA, Clulow J, Jordan NR, et al. (2020) Real-time drone derived thermal imagery outperforms traditional survey methods for an arboreal forest mammal. PLoS ONE 15(11): e0242204. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0242204
Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are cryptic and currently face regional extinction. The direct detection (physical sighting) of individuals is required to improve conservation management strategies. We provide a comparative assessment of three survey methods for the direct detection of koalas: systematic spotlighting (Spotlight), remotely piloted aircraft system thermal imaging (RPAS), and the refined diurnal radial search component of the spot assessment technique (SAT). Each survey method was repeated on the same morning with independent observers (03:00–12:00 hrs) for a total of 10 survey occasions at sites with fixed boundaries (28–76 ha) in Port Stephens (n = 6) and Gilead (n = 1) in New South Wales between May and July 2019. Koalas were directly detected on 22 occasions during 7 of 10 comparative surveys (Spotlight: n = 7; RPAS: n = 14; and SAT: n = 1), for a total of 12 unique individuals (Spotlight: n = 4; RPAS: n = 11; SAT: n = 1). In 3 of 10 comparative surveys no koalas were detected. Detection probability was 38.9 ± 20.03% for Spotlight, 83.3 ± 11.39% for RPAS and 4.2 ± 4.17% for SAT. Effective detectability per site was 1 ± 0.44 koalas per 6.75 ± 1.03 hrs for Spotlight (1 koala per 6.75 hrs), 2 ± 0.38 koalas per 4.35 ± 0.28 hrs for RPAS (1 koala per 2.18 hrs) and 0.14 ± 0.14 per 6.20 ± 0.93 hrs for SAT (1 koala per 43.39 hrs). RPAS thermal imaging technology appears to offer an efficient method to directly survey koalas comparative to Spotlight and SAT and has potential as a valuable conservation tool to inform on-ground management of declining koala populations
Quigley, B.L., Wedrowicz, F., Hogan, F. and Timms, P. (2020), Phylogenetic and geographical analysis of a retrovirus during the early stages of endogenous adaptation and exogenous spread in a new host. Molecular Ecology. Accepted Author Manuscript. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.15735
Most retroviral endogenization and host adaptation happened in the distant past, with the opportunity to study these processes as they occurred lost to time. An exception exists with the discovery that koala retrovirus (KoRV) has recently begun its endogenization into the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) genome. What makes this opportunity remarkable is the fact that Northern Australian koalas appear to be undergoing endogenization with one KoRV subtype (KoRV‐A), while all subtypes (KoRV‐A‐I) co‐exist exogenously, and Southern Australian koalas appear to carry all KoRV subtypes as an exogenous virus. To understand the distribution and relationship of all KoRV variants in koalas, the proviral KoRV envelope gene receptor binding domain was assessed across the koala’s natural range. Examination of KoRV subtype‐specific proviral copy numbers per cell found KoRV‐A proviral integration levels consistent with endogenous incorporation in Northern Australia (Southeast Queensland and Northeast New South Wales) while revealing lower levels of KoRV‐A proviral integration (suggestive of exogenous incorporation) in southern regions (Southeast New South Wales and Victoria). Phylogeographic analysis indicated that several major KoRV‐A variants were distributed uniformly across the country, while non‐KoRV‐A variants appeared to have undergone lineage diversification in geographically distinct regions. Further analysis of the major KoRV‐A variants revealed a distinct shift in variant proportions in Southeast New South Wales, suggesting this as the geographic region where KoRV‐A transitions from being predominantly endogenous to exogenous in Australian koalas. Collectively, these findings advance both our understanding of KoRV in koalas and of retroviral endogenization and diversification in general.
KOALA SCIENCE IN BRIEF
Cooper Christine Elizabeth, Withers Philip Carew, Turner James Malcolm (2020) Physiological implications of climate change for a critically endangered Australian marsupial. Australian Journal of Zoology [Western Ringtail Possum – comparisons made to koala] https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO20067
Ward, M., Tulloch, A.I.T., Radford, J.Q. et al. Impact of 2019–2020 mega-fires on Australian fauna habitat. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 1321–1326 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1251-1
Wagner, B., Baker, P. J., Stewart, S. B., Lumsden, L. F., Nelson, J. L., Cripps, J. K., Durkin, L. K., Scroggie, M. P., and Nitschke, C. R.. 2020. Climate change drives habitat contraction of a nocturnal arboreal marsupial at its physiological limits. Ecosphere 11( 10):e03262. [Greater Glider – shares some similar habitat & food preferences] https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ecs2.3262
Speight K. N., Breed W. G., Boardman W., Taggart D. A., Leigh C., Rich B., Haynes J. I. (2013) Leaf oxalate content of Eucalyptus spp. and its implications for koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) with oxalate nephrosis. Australian Journal of Zoology 61, 366-371. https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO13049
Oxalate nephrosis is a leading disease of the Mount Lofty Ranges koala population in South Australia, but the cause is unclear. In other herbivorous species, a common cause is high dietary oxalate; therefore this study aimed to determine the oxalate content of eucalypt leaves. Juvenile, semimature and mature leaves were collected during spring from eucalypt species eaten by koalas in the Mount Lofty Ranges and compared with those from Moggill, Queensland, where oxalate nephrosis has lower prevalence. Total oxalate was measured as oxalic acid by high-performance liquid chromatography. The oxalate content of eucalypts was low (<1% dry weight), but occasional Mount Lofty leaf samples had oxalate levels of 4.68–7.51% dry weight. Mount Lofty eucalypts were found to be higher in oxalate than those from Queensland (P < 0.001). In conclusion, dietary oxalate in eucalypt leaves is unlikely to be the primary cause of oxalate nephrosis in the Mount Lofty koala population. However, occasional higher oxalate levels could cause oxalate nephrosis in individual koalas or worsen disease in those already affected. Further studies on the seasonal variation of eucalypt leaf oxalate are needed to determine its role in the pathogenesis of oxalate nephrosis in koalas.