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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May 3 Wild Koala Day coming up, and events have increased to their highest number since COVID.
- Unconditional love all creatures great and small SA fundraiser
- Queensland Koala Crusaders public event
- Koala Clancy Foundation VIC weeding day
- Bangalow Koalas NSW tree planting x 2
- Koala Clancy Foundation VIC tree planting
- Queensland Koala Crusaders QLD tree planting
- Koala Action Gympie QLD tree planting
- Campbelltown Bushcare NSW tree planting
- Eurobodalla Koalas NSW habitat survey
- Pine Rivers Koala Care QLD public event
Koalas mentioned in federal government budget speech 29 March
In the federal budget speech, Treasurer Josh Frydenburg mentioned koalas:
“More than $170 million for threatened species and habitat restoration including for our koalas.”
Protecting The Environment was low on the items discussed, coming in second last.
New koala training for wildlife carers 8 April
WIRES have launched an Australia-wide online course in koala rescue for registered wildlife carers.
Important Grey Box forest restoration project in Vic going ahead
A 10 hectare unproductive paddock in Balliang, Vic will be restored to its pre-agriculture Grey Box Eucalyptus microcarpa woodland by Koala Clancy Foundation, with support from IFAW, One Tree Planted & Hewlett-Packard Australia. This will become the largest, most southerly block of this endangered forest type in Australia, and an important climate refuge for Koalas and 15 other endangered and threatened species.
1100 koala trees planted in Joyner, QLD 10 April
Queensland Koala Crusaders and Koala Action have planted 1100 trees around Joyner
Success identifying individual koalas from recordings of vocalisations 6 April
A new study by University of Wollongong researchers is creating artificial intelligence to identify individual koalas from bellows recorded using passive acoustic recorders. Phase 1 has been completed and is showing 94% accuracy.
Funding for koalas in Noosa QLD, 24 April
Noosa & District Landcare will receive $250,000 for planting wildlife habitat and drone monitoring.
One quarter of Little River replanted with koala trees VIC 23 April
Koala clancy Foundation have planted 24,362 koala trees along the Little River – the only potential link across the plains for You Yangs and Brisbane Ranges Koalas.
Investors scrutinising Mt Gilead development NSW 19 April
Australian Ethical reveals that any failure by Lendlease to build koala underpasses could cause divestment.
Coffs Council Supports a Great Koala National Park 1 April
A motion to support in principle was carried unanimously by Council, however riders to ask state government for a transition package for forestry workers and financial investment for the park were not passed.
Fundraising success for Myall koalas NSW 20 April
Myall Koala & Environment Group raised $2784 at their annual Easter stall, up from $1787 before COVID. Funds will be used to protect koalas and other wildlife in the area.
More koalas than expected in Maroochy Botanic Gardens QLD 7 April
The drone and dog survey conducted by University of Sunshine Coast, Friends of Maroochy Botanic Gardens & Sunshine Coast Council found 14 koalas in the 82ha park.
Freezing koala sperm cheaper than captive breeding 12 April
University of Newcastle Scientists Lachlan Howell & Ryan Witt propose a scheme to freeze sperm from koalas to ensure genetic diversity can be maintained in the face of local extinctions, and that the method would make captive breeding cheaper and genetically more robust.
Emergency intervention for Belmont Hill koalas working QLD 19 April
A small population of Koalas at 95ha Belmont Hill Reserve, Brisbane were so affected by chlamydia that they were likely to become extinct in the short term. Only one healthy breeding female remained UQ scientists intervened, health checking all koalas, treating those they could, euthanasing those they couldn’t, releasing those without disease. The population has already doubled and now seems to be rebounding.
500 hectares to be reforested in Northern Rivers NSW 29 April
WWF, Climate Friendly and the NSW government have allocated funds to find 500ha of land to be replanted with trees that will suit koalas and qualify for carbon credits.
Koala numbers stable in Narrandera NSW 3 April
A population of koalas along the Murrumbidgee River in Narrandera are doing well and appear to be increasing slowly.
LATEST KOALA SCIENCE:
Howell, L.G., Johnston, S.D., O’Brien, J.K., Frankham, R., Rodger, J.C., Ryan, S.A., Beranek, C.T., Clulow, J., Hudson, D.S. and Witt, R.R., 2022. Modelling Genetic Benefits and Financial Costs of Integrating Biobanking into the Captive Management of Koalas. Animals, 12(8), p.990. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/12/8/990
Managed wildlife breeding faces high costs and genetic diversity challenges associated with caring for small populations. Biobanking (freezing of sex cells and tissues for use in assisted breeding) and associated reproductive technologies could help alleviate these issues in koala captive management by enhancing retention of genetic diversity in captive-bred animals and lowering program costs through reductions in the size of the required live captive colonies. Australia’s zoos and wildlife hospitals provide rare opportunities to refine and cost-effectively integrate these tools into conservation outcomes for koalas due to extensive already-existing infrastructure, technical expertise, and captive animals.
Lott, M.J., Wright, B.R., Neaves, L.E., Frankham, G.J., Dennison, S., Eldridge, M.D., Potter, S., Alquezar‐Planas, D.E., Hogg, C.J., Belov, K. and Johnson, R.N., 2022. Future‐proofing the koala: synergising genomic and environmental data for effective species management. Molecular Ecology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mec.16446
Climatic and evolutionary processes are inextricably linked to conservation. Avoiding extinction in rapidly changing environments often depends upon a species’ capacity to adapt in the face of extreme selective pressures. Here, we employed exon capture and high-throughput next-generation sequencing to investigate the mechanisms underlying population structure and adaptive genetic variation in the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), an iconic Australian marsupial that represents a unique conservation challenge because it is not uniformly threatened across its range. An examination of 250 specimens representing 91 wild source locations revealed that five major genetic clusters currently exist on a continental scale. The initial divergence of these clusters appears to have been concordant with the Mid-Brunhes Transition (~430 to 300 kya), a major climatic reorganisation that increased the amplitude of Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles. While signatures of polygenic selection and environmental adaptation were detected, strong evidence for repeated, climate-associated range contractions and demographic bottleneck events suggests that geographically isolated refugia may have played a more significant role in the survival of the koala through the Pleistocene glaciation than in situ adaptation. Consequently, the conservation of genome-wide genetic variation must be aligned with the protection of core koala habitat to increase the resilience of vulnerable populations to accelerating anthropogenic threats. Finally, we propose that the five major genetic clusters identified in this study should be accounted for in future koala conservation efforts (e.g., guiding translocations), as existing management divisions in the states of Queensland and New South Wales do not reflect historic or contemporary population structure.
Eisenhofer, R., Brice, K.L., Blyton, M.D., Bevins, S.E., Leigh, K., Singh, B.K., Helgen, K.M., Hough, I., Daniels, C., Speight, N. and Moore, B.D., 2022. Individuality and stability of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) faecal microbiota through time. https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-1567786/latest.pdf
Background: Gut microbiota studies often rely on a single sample taken per individual, representing a snapshot in time. However, we know that gut microbiota composition in many animals exhibits intra-individual variation over the course of days to months. Such temporal variations can be a confounding factor in studies seeking to compare the gut microbiota of different wild populations, or to assess the impact of medical/veterinary interventions. To date, little is known about the variability of the koala ( Phascolarctos cinereus ) gut microbiota through time. Here, we characterise the gut microbiota from faecal samples collected at 8 timepoints over a month for a captive population of South Australian koalas (n individuals = 7), and monthly over 7 months for a wild population of New South Wales koalas (n individuals = 5). Results: Using 16S rRNA gene sequencing, we found that microbial diversity was stable over the course of days to months. Each koala had a distinct faecal microbiota composition which in the captive koalas was stable across days. The wild koalas showed more variation across months, although each individual still maintained a distinct microbial composition. Per koala, an average of 57 (± 16) amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) were detected across all time points; these ASVs accounted for an average of 97% (± 1.9%) of the faecal microbial community per koala. Conclusion: The koala faecal microbiota exhibits stability over the course of days to months. Such knowledge will be useful for future studies comparing koala populations and developing microbiota interventions for this regionally endangered marsupial.
Koala Science In Brief:
Kan, A., Schmertmann, L.J., McArthur, C., Mella, V.S., Crowther, M.S., Miranda, L., Malik, R., Meyer, W. and Krockenberger, M.B., 2022. A Possible Link between the Environment and Cryptococcus gattii Nasal Colonisation in Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) in the Liverpool Plains, New South Wales. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(8), p.4603.
Speight, N., 2022. Health and Diseases of Koalas. Animals, 12(8), p.1005.
Camaclang, A. E., Chadès, I., Martin, T. G., & Possingham, H. P. (2022). Predicting the optimal amount of time to spend learning before designating protected habitat for threatened species. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 13, 722– 733. https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.13770
- Deciding when to protect threatened species habitat when complete knowledge about the habitat extent is uncertain is a common problem in conservation. More accurate habitat mapping improves conservation outcomes once that habitat is protected. However, delaying protection to improve accuracy can lead to species decline or, at worst, local extinction when threats to that habitat continue unabated before protection is implemented. Hence, there is a trade-off between gaining knowledge and taking conservation action.
- We quantified this trade-off and determined the optimal time to spend learning about a species’ habitat before protecting that habitat. We used a range of hypothetical learning curves to model improvements in the accuracy of predicted habitat over time, and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves to model the corresponding increase in the proportion of habitat protected. We used rates of habitat loss to model the impact of delaying habitat protection and derived analytical solutions to the problem for different types of learning curves.
- We illustrate our approach using two threatened species, the koala Phascolarctos cinereus in Australia and northern abalone Haliotis kamtschatkana in Canada. Our approach confirms that when impacts of threatening processes are incurred rapidly, the need for timely protection is high, and the optimal time to spend learning is short for all learning curves. When the rate of habitat loss is low, we benefit from better habitat identification, and the optimal time to protect is sensitive to assumptions about how we learn and the proportion of non-habitat we are willing to protect unnecessarily.
- Navigating the trade-off between information gain and timely action is a common problem in conservation. By optimizing the trade-off between the benefits of improving mapping accuracy and the costs of delaying protection, we provide guidelines on the effective allocation of resources between habitat identification and habitat protection. Importantly, by explicitly modelling this trade-off with a range of learning curves and estimates of the rates of habitat loss or other threatening processes, we can predict the optimal time to spend learning even when relatively little is known about a species and its habitat.
Previous Koala News & Science here: http://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/koala-news-science/koala-news-science-march-2022/
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.