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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National Koala Disease Risk Analysis published
The KDRA is the first disease risk analysis to examine disease risk for an Australian wildlife species at the national level.
The full document can be found here: https://hdl.handle.net/2123/31308
The KDRA Report includes:
- a problem description for disease in koalas.
- a list of all known disease hazards of koalas.
- identification and prioritisation of the 13 key disease hazards of koalas.
- detailed risk assessments and risk mitigation recommendations (see below) for the 13 selected hazards.
- discussion of other important disease hazards.
- summary of knowledge gaps.
The KDRA Recommendations section of the Report includes:
- Eight “Guiding Principles for effective action” that are designed to underpin all actions addressing disease risks facing koalas.
- 21 prioritised General Recommendations that apply to every disease hazard analysed.
- Prioritised Hazard-specific Recommendations for each of the 13 key disease hazards.
After months of pressure, logging ceases in koala hubs in Great Koala NP footprint, NSW 12 September
5% of the proposed 175,000ha proposed for the Great Koala NP in northern NSW will be protected from logging in areas designated as Koala Hubs. The EPA has also been instructed to ensure that logging does not increase in areas outside of the hubs to compensate.
A map and the EPA IFOA amendments can be found here: https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/your-environment/native-forestry/public-native-forestry/integrated-forestry-operations-approvals/coastal-ifoa
The decision comes after six months of protest by community groups and NGOs as logging intensified in the proposed NP.
VicForests ordered to stop logging in Wombat SF VIC 26 September
Wombat Forestcare have sought and won a Supreme Court injunction to temporarily stop VicForests salvage logging in Wombat State Forest. Supreme Court justice Melinda Richards said Wombat Forestcare had established “serious questions to be tried” that planned timber harvesting in the coupe would not comply with VicForests’ code, in relation to surveying for endangered mountain skink and three species of forest owls.
VicForests has also recently been declassified as a government business and a review has commenced.
Northern Rivers Koala Count NSW completed
Friends of the Koala arranged their first community koala count from 24 to 30 September.
The Friends of the Koala web is still open for sightings.
Strzelecki genome found as far west as Grantville VIC 14 September
Researcher Kelly Smith has confirmed koalas with the Strzelecki Koala genome have been found in Grantville Nature REserve, on the Bass Coast shore of Westernport Bay.
Highest koala count in Gympie QLD 30 September
A new record has been set for the most healthy koala sightings reported in a month, since Council’s ‘Wildwatch’ started nearly 4 years ago. 43 healthy koalas were sighted in Gympie region in September.
Record a sighting here: https://www.gympie.qld.gov.au/koalas?
Calls for caution over fuel reduction burning 29 September
Authors of a new study on impact of fires on koalas have called for a balance between koala conservation and periodic burning.
Last chance to plant trees for koalas on Mornington Peninsula VIC on 7 October
Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation are running one last weekday tree planting event at Mount Martha on Thursday 7 October.
Register here: https://mpkoalas.org.au/
New research on causes of koala deaths in SE QLD 15 September
New research from University of Queensland has found that cars are major killers of koalas in SE Queensland. “In the five years between 2009 and 2014, 52% of reported wild koala deaths were caused by car strike, 34% were from a chlamydia-related disease and 14% were because of a dog attack.”
Urgent fundraiser for Magnetic Island Koala hospital
The small and wonderful team at Magnetic Island needs to upgrade facilities urgently as they face a dry summer with high numbers of stressed koalas coming in. They need to bring two demountables over from the mainland to house their new X-ray and for a new ward.
Koala festival at Tinonee mid coast NSW on 7 October
Learn how to help local koalas at the MidCoast Koala Festival on 7 October. The festival will have educational stalls, kids activities, and an opportunity to sign up to Koala Safe Spaces.
Koala road fencing in Brisbane QLD 29 September
The new koala-proof fencing and koala escape poles will be installed along the Old Cleveland Road East boundary of the Birkdale Conservation Park
Koala signs found south of Coffs Harbour NSW 25 September
Friends of Pine Creek have reported finding evidence of koalas at the edge of ‘plantation’ forest in Pine Creek, at Sawtell Beach, and in areas earmarked for logging near Bongil Bongil NP, and in Oakes State Forest.
Noosa Council opposes vegetation clearance at quarry QLD 18 September
Noosa council is making a submission to the federal government opposing vegetation clearing at Kin Kin quarry on the basis of impacts on koalas and other wildlife.
Community forum about koalas in Ballarat
The forum was held on September 14 and run by the Friends of Canadian Corridor. Results of the attendees survey showed strongest support for ’Stronger protection of large remnant native trees; “Active native vegetation retention on private land” and “Creeks within development projects protected/restored to enhance biodiversity”. Wildlife road crossings, wildlife signage and a Ballarat Environment Restoration Fund were also well supported.
Latest Koala Science
Lunney, D., Cope, H., Griffith, J., Orcheg, C., Bryant, J. and Haering, R., Trends in the rescue and fate of koalas in New South Wales (1973-2020), with a focus on disease and trauma. Australian Zoologist. https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2023.026
In line with the objectives of both the 2022 National Recovery Plan for the Koala Phascolarctos cinereus and 2022 NSW Koala Strategy, our study aimed to draw on the long-term records of koala rescue in NSW from 1973 to 2020 to describe trends in admissions across NSW. A total of 18,039 koala admission records were collated from 1973 to 2020. Koalas were rescued due to disease, motor vehicle collision, dog attacks, unsuitable environment, bushfire, orphaning, and other reasons. However, the reasons for rescue were not evenly distributed among the rehabilitation groups. Across all rehabilitation groups and all years (1973-2020), the release rate of all admitted koalas was 47.6%. The NSW Koala Strategy identifies an action of “supporting koala rehabilitators” (Pillar 3 Improving the safety and health of koalas), and strong partnerships, including with koala rehabilitators, are “critical to achieving success”. Our study has confirmed that strong partnerships are possible and identified the prevalence of disease and trauma in rescued koalas. While it is not possible to assess the scale of the threats from disease and trauma to koala populations from rehabilitation records alone, we can use the trends in admissions to inform the efficient distribution of resources to rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
Simpson, S.J., Higgins, D.P., Timms, P., Mella, V.S., Crowther, M.S., Fernandez, C.M., McArthur, C., Phillips, S. and Krockenberger, M.B., 2023. Efficacy of a synthetic peptide Chlamydia pecorum major outer membrane protein vaccine in a wild koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) population. Scientific Reports, 13(1), p.15087. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-42296-7
Chlamydiosis is a significant disease affecting Eastern Australian koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) populations, impacting individual animal welfare and fecundity and therefore influencing population dynamics. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of a synthetic peptide vaccine based on 4 components of the Chlamydia pecorum major outer membrane protein (MOMP), over an 18-month period in a koala population severely impacted by chlamydiosis. Wild koalas were recruited into a vaccination or a placebo treatment group on a random allocation, then followed through a period of 18 months, with recapture at 6 monthly intervals. Vaccination did not alter clinical disease expression or chlamydial shedding from the ocular or urogenital sites. Vaccination did not stimulate a significant plasma anti-MOMP IgG response, when compared to the placebo group. There was no significant effect of vaccination on IFN-γ and IL-17A mRNA expression of peripheral blood lymphocytes when stimulated with rMOMP. We have demonstrated that a synthetic peptide vaccination against chlamydiosis is not an effective management tool in a koala population with a high prevalence of C. pecorum infection and related disease. The lack of antigenic response found in this study suggests that further research utilising a larger, full-length antigen is an avenue worth investigation if we are to consider vaccination as a part of a management strategy in diseased koala populations.
Luz, M.L.A. and Cacho, O.J., Trade-Offs in Restoration Areas for Carbon and Koala Conservation. Available at SSRN 4571116. https://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4571116
Limited resources make it imperative to understand how to provide economic opportunities while meeting socio-ecological objectives in the design of prioritization frameworks. The goal of this study is to spatially analyze trade-offs between economic and ecological management objectives to restore habitats for koala conservation. Production possibility frontiers and attainment levels were derived for various restoration scenarios, including the potential profit that could be generated with carbon credits. Modeling was conducted by combining metrics for Koala Habitat Suitability, Bushfire Risk to dwellings, and Aboveground Biomass, and priority areas for each objective were identified. The results show that few areas have a high potential for maximizing two objectives together, with the marginal benefit from improving profit reducing the attainment of the other objectives, highlighting the trade-off between economic and ecological objectives. Most planning areas experience economic loss when habitat suitability or bushfire risk is prioritized, but there is more flexibility in bushfire risk than in habitat suitability to aggregate areas for treatment until profit decreases to zero. In line with previous research, site selection for restoration is highly dependent on local characteristics, and ecological and economic management activities need to be reconciled with the characteristics of each area to maximize ecological benefits.
Lane, M.R., Lowe, A., Vukcevic, J., Clark, R.G., Madani, G., Higgins, D.P., Silver, L., Belov, K., Hogg, C.J. and Marsh, K.J., 2023. Health Assessments of Koalas after Wildfire: A Temporal Comparison of Rehabilitated and Non-Rescued Resident Individuals. Animals, 13(18), p.2863. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13182863
Bushfires are a regular occurrence in the Australian landscape. The 2019/20 megafires were unprecedented in intensity and scale, impacting many native species. Koalas were particularly impacted by the fires, with many of those coming into care requiring extensive rehabilitation and treatment. Very little is known about the health parameters of rehabilitated koalas following their release and how these parameters may differ between individuals living in a burnt landscape compared to those in an unburnt landscape. This study tested haematological and serum biochemical parameters, chlamydial shedding and body condition scores of rehabilitated koalas and non-rescued residents living in burnt and unburnt habitats. All koalas received a health check 5–9 months post-fire and one 12–16 months post-fire. Rehabilitated koalas also received a health check when coming into care initially. While some variation in parameters was recorded, the majority of measurements in each koala group fell within the normal reference ranges, suggesting that resident and rehabilitated koalas were in good health at the time of release and when recaptured. These results show that koalas can be supported in burnt landscapes (provided there is adequate nutrition) and that the health of rehabilitated koalas is not compromised by returning them to burnt habitats.
Stevenson, M., Dissanayake, R., Gonzalez-Astudillo, V., Allavena, R. and Henning, J., 2023, September. R02. 1 Anthropogenic and environmental factors associated with koala deaths occurring through vehicle collisions and dog attacks in South East Queensland, Australia. In GeoVet 2023 International Conference. https://www.veterinariaitaliana.izs.it/index.php/GEOVET23/article/view/3285
Populations of the iconic Australian koala are under constant decline. Their deaths are associated with the rapid and extensive urbanisation and fragmentation of koala habitat. Using citizen science data on observed koala mortalities in South East Queensland, we quantified the association between environmental, infrastructural and demographic factors and the two leading causes of koala deaths, vehicle collisions and dog attacks. We achieved this objective using two modelling approaches: a Poisson point process model to identify factors increasing the intensity of a given cause-specific mortality and a case-control design to estimates the odds of a given cause of death compared to all other causes of death.
The intensity of koala deaths (that is, the expected number of koala deaths per square kilometre) from vehicle collisions was negatively associated with distance to primary roads, whereas the intensity of koala deaths from dog attacks was positively associated with dog population density. While these results were expected, the value in these analyses arose from the ability to identify specific areas where there was an excess of cause-specific mortality risk after known risk factors had been accounted for.
The results of this research can be used to develop risk mitigation strategies and to enhance surveillance for dog attacks in high-risk areas, for example by conducting educational awareness programs, promoting registration of dogs and discouraging free roaming of dogs. In a similar manner, in high-risk areas for vehicular collisions, safe over or underpasses can be built to facilitate safe movement of koalas for road crossing or speed limits could be introduced to reduce the likelihood of koala deaths.
Albery, G.F., Turilli, I., Joseph, M.B. et al. From flames to inflammation: how wildfires affect patterns of wildlife disease. fire ecol 17, 23 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42408-021-00113-4
Background: Fire strongly affects animals’ behavior, population dynamics, and environmental surroundings, which in turn are likely to affect their immune systems and exposure to pathogens. However, little work has yet been conducted on the effects of wildfires on wildlife disease. This research gap is rapidly growing in importance because wildfires are becoming globally more common and more severe, with unknown impacts on wildlife disease and unclear implications for livestock and human health in the future.
Results: Here, we discussed how wildfires could influence susceptibility and exposure to infection in wild animals, and the potential consequences for ecology and public health. In our framework, we outlined how habitat loss and degradation caused by fire affect animals’ immune defenses, and how behavioral and demographic responses to fire affect pathogen exposure, spread, and maintenance. We identified relative unknowns that might influence disease dynamics in unpredictable ways (e.g., through altered community composition and effects on free-living parasites). Finally, we discussed avenues for future investigations of fire-disease links.
Conclusions: We hope that this review will stimulate much-needed research on the role of wildfire in influencing wildlife disease, providing an important source of information on disease dynamics in the wake of future wildfires and other natural disasters, and encouraging further integration of the fields of fire and disease ecology.
Previous Koala News & Science here: https://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/koala-news-science/koala-news-science-august-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.