An informative monthly newsletter about successes & important announcements in koala conservation, and the latest scientific publications about koalas.
April 2023
Subscribe here: https://mailchi.mp/808fc4af1ee0/koala-news-science

Wild Koala Day events coming up this week!

Wednesday 3 May, VIC: Koala Alliance Victoria launch. https://www.koalasvictoria.au/

Wednesday 3 May, NSW: kids free entry at Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary https://www.facebook.com/portstephenskoalasanctuary/photos/a.1072664706404464/1948987142105545/

Wednesday 3 May, QLD: Moreton Bay Koala Rescue Wild Koala Day video.

Wednesday 3 May, SA: Unconditional love all creatures great and small fundraiser stall https://tinyurl.com/37e996uh

Friday 5 May, QLD: Koala Action Gympie Wild Koala Day market stall https://tinyurl.com/25tmtaa2

Sunday 7 May, QLD: Pine Rivers Koala Care Wild Koala Day event,Old Petrie Town, Queensland

Sunday 7 May, VIC: Koala Clancy Foundation event You Yangs https://www.koalaclancyfoundation.org.au/event/wild-koala-day-weeding-in-the-you-yangs/

Sunday 7 May, NSW: Campbelltown Bushcare Tree Planting https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wild-koala-day-tree-planting-event-tickets-298809135167

Sunday 7 May, QLD: Kids painting experience fundraiser for Wild Koala Day https://facebook.com/events/s/international-wild-koala-day-k/792741465772074/

Saturday 29 April, QLD: Queensland Koala Crusaders information stall https://tinyurl.com/ykftzhy3


Investigation into Victorian Koala Management Strategy released 29 April
“Weak, bitter, defensive, and very very late:” the newly-formed Koala Alliance Victoria has investigated the long-awaited Victorian Koala Management Strategy and found it indefensible.

Lockyer Valley Koala Forum, near Toowoomba QLD on 18 May
Prof Peter Timms and Dr David Fechner to speak at community forum on 18 May at Gatton. Tickets now available.

More koalas sighted in south-east SA 11 April
A male koala sighted at Glen Roy Conservation Park, north of Coonawarra, sparks hope for a recolonisation in South Australia.

Ambitious plans for wildlife in NSW Northern Rivers 11 April
Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital has launched a plan to support all wildlife hospitals and rescue organisations across the region.

Habitat reconnected after bushfires 26 April
Across NSW & QLD, connectivity between patches of core habitat was improved across 228,137 hectares of land, forests restored and weeds removed by a partnership between IFAW and Great Eastern Ranges.

Protests stop logging in Doubleduke SF, NSW 14 April
Logging that was threatening giant trees was shut down in Doubleduke as a result of protests by Save Banyabba Koalas & others. Community complaints to the EPA showed that Forestry Corp NSW breached laws. Mapping of the giant trees has now been done by FCNSW, and assurances have been provided to the EPA, so a decision to recommence is expected.

Wildseek partnership aims to find koalas across Australia 26 April
The partnership between Queensland University of Technology, Landcare and WIRES is co-ordinating drone surveys for koalas and other native animals. The first surveys will take place in East Gippsland VIC, Noosa QLD and Tamworth NSW.

Koala road deaths in western Victoria highlighted 28 April
Ballarat koala advocates staged a protest on top of a freeway overpass to highlight koala deaths on the roads.

Koala tree giveaway at Kempsey NSW 26 April
Kempsey Council are taking orders for 4 species of local koala feed trees until 17 May. Trees can be picked up on 30 May from Macleay Landcare.

Community feedback sought for koala protection in SE Qld, closes 5 June
Feedback sought on a post-implementation review of amendments to planning laws introduced in Feb 2020.



Latest Koala Science:


Maidment, T.I., Bryan, E.R., Pyne, M., Barnes, M., Eccleston, S., Cunningham, S., Whitlock, E., Redman, K., Nicolson, V., Beagley, K.W. and Pelzer, E., 2023. Characterisation of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) pouch microbiota in a captive population reveals a dysbiotic compositional profile associated with neonatal mortality. Microbiome, 11(1), p.75. https://microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/counter/pdf/10.1186/s40168-023-01527-9.pdf

Background Captive koala breeding programmes are essential for long-term species management. However, breeding efficacy is frequently impacted by high neonatal mortality rates in otherwise healthy females. Loss of pouch young typically occurs during early lactation without prior complications during parturition and is often attributed to bacterial infection. While these infections are thought to originate from the maternal pouch, little is known about the microbial composition of koala pouches. As such, we characterised the koala pouch microbiome across the reproductive cycle and identified bacteria associated with mortality in a cohort of 39 captive animals housed at two facilities. Results Using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, we observed significant changes in pouch bacterial composition and diversity between reproductive time points, with the lowest diversity observed following parturition (Shannon entropy — 2.46). Of the 39 koalas initially sampled, 17 were successfully bred, after which seven animals lost pouch young (overall mortality rate — 41.18%). Compared to successful breeder pouches, which were largely dominated by Muribaculaceae (phylum — Bacteroidetes), unsuccessful breeder pouches exhibited persistent Enterobacteriaceae (phylum — Proteobacteria) dominance from early lactation until mortality occurred. We identified two species, Pluralibacter gergoviae and Klebsiella pneumoniae, which were associated with poor reproductive outcomes. In vitro antibiotic susceptibility testing identified resistance in both isolates to several antibiotics commonly used in koalas, with the former being multidrug resistant. Conclusions This study represents the frst cultivation-independent characterisation of the koala pouch microbiota, and the first such investigation in marsupials associated with reproductive outcomes. Overall, our fndings provide evidence that overgrowth of pathogenic organisms in the pouch during early development is associated with neonatal mortality in captive koalas. Our identification of previously unreported, multidrug resistant P. gergoviae strains linked to mortality also underscores the need for improved screening and monitoring procedures aimed at minimising neonatal mortality in future.


Leigh, K.A., Hofweber, L.N., Sloggett, B.K., Inman, V.L., Pettit, L.J., Sriram, A. and Haering, R., 2023. Outcomes for an arboreal folivore after rehabilitation and implications for management. Scientific Reports, 13(1), p.6542.

Wildlife rehabilitation is a critical part of animal welfare that contributes to species conservation. Despite the resources that go into rehabilitation, how animals fare after release from care is unknown. This is particularly true for cryptic arboreal species where specialist diets in care and low detectability in the wild present challenges for both care and post-release monitoring. We evaluated post-release outcomes for koalas and assessed if koalas were fed appropriately while in care. We monitored 36 koalas that had experienced one of three categories of medical intervention (none, minor, major) during rehabilitation. We examined the drivers of (i) koala survival and (ii) movements post-release, and (iii) evaluated variation between the species of browse fed in care versus browse selected by koalas in-situ. Overall, the post release survival rate of koalas was 58.5%, with only koalas that received medical intervention experiencing mortality. A critical threshold for mortality occurred at two weeks post-release and mortality was related to the measurable indicators of low body condition and poor climbing ability at time of release. In the month following their release, animals translocated furthest from their capture point moved the furthest. There was poor overlap between the tree species that koalas were fed in care and those they utilized post-release. We provide recommendations to address critical gaps in rehabilitation practices, as well as priorities for monitoring animals post-release to improve outcomes for arboreal folivores.


Pahuja, H. and Narayan, E., 2023. Quantifying faecal cortisol metabolites in rescued orphaned koala joeys undergoing rehabilitation. Australian Mammalogy.

Mortality is prevalent in koala joeys being hand reared/rehabilitated, with little knowledge about the causes of such high rates of mortality. Wildlife hospitals/rehabilitation expose koala joeys to novel husbandry environments that create stressful stimulus for these animals. Furthermore, loss of the mother and/or being raised by a human can be threatening and/or stressful. The hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis plays a vital role in mediating the stress endocrine response of vertebrate species including marsupials (by adrenocortical release of glucocorticoids such as cortisol), however, there are no studies that quantify cortisol metabolites in koala joeys. To contribute to this dearth of knowledge, the primary aim of this study was to quantify the levels of faecal cortisol metabolites (as an index of physiological stress) in koala joeys undergoing rehabilitation. A total of thirty-nine faecal samples were collected from four koala joeys admitted at a wildlife hospital in New South Wales, Australia. The samples were processed and analysed for faecal cortisol metabolites (FCM) using a polyclonal R4866 cortisol enzyme-immunoassay which has been previously biologically validated in adult koalas. The results indicated that there was significant inter-individual variation in FCM concentrations among the joeys, however, these differences were not based on the sex of the joeys. The average FCM concentration among joeys varied from 18.34 ng/g – 44.18 ng/g. Our study provides the first record of physiological stress in male and female rescued koala joeys by indexing FCM concentrations during rehabilitation.


Xing, W., Zhou, J., Tan, W.L., Nayyeri, F., Kerlin, D. and Castley, G., Dual-stream Convolutional Neural Networks for Koala Detection and Tracking. https://doi.org/10.1109/DICTA56598.2022.10034583

Conservation of koalas is an urgent task for Australia given their rapidly declining numbers in the wild. To better estimate koala populations and analyse koala activity, a camera network was deployed to capture video of koalas from zoos and the wild. This led to the creation of the world’s first koala video tracking dataset. Based on this dataset, a twostream convolutional neural network model was constructed to detect and track koala activity in the video. The model has two branches, one using semantic information for object detection in the original video frames, and the other using optical flow for motion information tracking. Both branches use Yolov5, which generates the positions of objects detected in colour or near-infrared video. Finally, the features generated by the two branches are fused to determine the final position of the koala in each frame. Experimental results show that the dual-stream network can significantly improve the tracking performance when compared with the baseline model that uses only semantic information for tracking.


Koala Science In Brief:


Frere, C., Jackson, N., Sandino, A.O., Ball, S. and Powell, D., 2023. Koalas, friends, and foes–the application of airborne eDNA for the biomonitoring of threatened species. https://www.authorea.com/doi/full/10.22541/au.167999582.25835127


Chandler, E.E., Pratt, C.J. and Youssef, N.H., 2023. Continued isolation of anaerobic gut fungi from marsupial hosts. https://shareok.org/handle/11244/337407


Feature paper:


Van Stan, J., Allen, S., Aubrey, D., Berry, Z.C., Biddick, M., Coenders-Gerrits, M., Giordani, P., Gotsch, S., Gutmann, E., Kuzyakov, Y. and Magyar, D., 2023. Shower Thoughts: Why Scientists Should Spend More Time in the Rain.

Rainwater is a vital resource and dynamic driver of terrestrial ecosystems. Yet, processes controlling precipitation inputs and interactions during storms are often poorly seen, and poorly sensed when direct observations are substituted with technological ones. We discuss how human observations complement technological ones, and the benefits of scientists spending more time in the storm. Human observation can reveal ephemeral storm-related phenomena such as biogeochemical ‘hot moments’, organismal responses, and sedimentary processes which can then be explored in greater resolution using sensors and virtual experimentation. Storm-related phenomena trigger lasting, oversized impacts on hydrologic and biogeochemical processes, organismal traits/functions, and ecosystem services. We provide examples of phenomena in forests, across disciplines and scales, to inspire mindful, holistic observation of ecosystems during storms. We conclude that technological observations alone are insufficient to trace the process complexity and unpredictability of fleeting biogeochemical or ecological events without the “shower thoughts” produced by scientists’ human sensory and cognitive systems during storms.


Previous Koala News & Science here: https://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/koala-news-science/koala-news-science-march-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 president@koalaclancyfoundation.org.au before 29th of each month for possible inclusion.