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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Coalition of Koala advocates apply pressure to NSW government over Great Koala NP 28 June
20 conservation groups, including Nature Conservation Council and WWF, gathered at parliament house on 28 June to voice concerns over logging plans in the proposed park. Forestry NSW intends to log one-fifth of the proposed national park in the next 12 months.
Survey open for SE QLD residents about attitudes to koalas
University of Queensland PhD candidate Renae Charalambous is co-ordinating a survey to assess the behavioural intention of people living in South-East Queensland to promote positive koala conservation. A wide audience is sought.
Brisbane Council and Queensland state government at odds over speed limits to protect koalas 5 June.
Deputy Mayor Krista Adams hit back after Transport Minister Mark Bailey said that it was up to Brisbane Council to alter the speed limit.
MP criticises Lendlease over Gilead koalas 2 June
Independent MP for Wollondilly Judy Hannan has highlighted aggressive land development threatening koalas in one of her first speeches to parliament. She called on the government to cease Stage 2 of the controversial development.
Koala trees planted in Moorabool River 5 June
3500 trees planted on farm by IFAW and Koala Clancy Foundation, to restore premium koala habitat. Nice news footage, but a factual error – it has not been 100 years since a koala was spotted on the Moorabool!
Hawkesbury Council criticised for boundary clearing that doesn’t protect koala habitat 28 June
Sydney Basin Koala Network is disappointed with the Hawekesbury Council for opting in to the Rural Boundary Clearing Code that gives no protection for koala habitat. The council also has no Koala Plan of Management.
Tree planting season begins in Victoria 1 June
Trees are being planted for koalas across Victoria, including Mornington Peninsula and around Geelong.
Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation are planting every weekend through July, register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/cc/mpkc-events-tree-planting-days-2023-689699?
Koala Clancy Foundation are planting every weekend until end of August, book here: https://www.koalaclancyfoundation.org.au/events/month/
EDO releases fact sheet for planning decisions affecting koalas in NSW 26 June
This excellent summary shows what, who and how to provide evidence about koalas to inform environment and planning decisions in NSW.
Protesters stop logging in parts of proposed Great Koala NP, northern NSW 11 & 15 June
The tree sit protester stopped logging in Orara East State Forest, near Coffs Harbour, an area that is within the proposed Great Koala NP.
Another protester stopped logging in Boambee State Forest, also near Coffs Harbour on 15 June.
Other protesters stopped logging in Yarratt SF, south of Port Macquarie 5 June
Koala tours at Raymond Island, Vic
As part of the East Gippsland Winter Festival, Koalas of Raymond Island are offering koala tours. Register here: https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing/1067244?eid=1067244&fbclid=IwAR0RlTKLB0ntiXcVq-5V7FQyKnPs1TpL1EnO7crtU7pmDStHBQ5_e9Gjdxc
Community koala information session in Esk, QLD
Care4esK will be holding a Community Information afternoon in Esk on Saturday August 26. The University of the Sunshine Coast Detection Dogs for Conservation team will give an update on their findings following our recent Koala surveys across the Region.
Keep an eye on facebook for booking. https://www.facebook.com/saveglenrock
Volunteers needed for Forest Fest, Bellingen NSW 8 July
Bellingen Activist Network are running a huge fundraising event on 8 July and need volunteers to help.
DM on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BellingenActivistNetwork
Drones don’t appear to bother koalas 24 June
Flinders University study fitted 16 koalas at Cleland Wildlife Park with Fitbits to monitor heart and breathing rate in response to drones flying over. The koalas showed a momentary increase in vigilance, but no increase in heart rate or breathing rate.
Open letter to NSW government to stop native forest logging
Pressure is mounting for NSW to follow Victoria’s lead and cease native forest logging. Bob Brown Foundation are seeking signatures on an open letter to the NSW Treasurer.
42 koalas found at Coolah Tops, NSW 5 June
Drone surveys found 42 koalas living in a high elevation area, south of Tamworth in NSW. Very few koalas had previously been recorded in the area.
Latest Koala Science:
Quigley, B.L., Timms, P., Nyari, S., McKay, P., Hanger, J. and Phillips, S., 2023. Reduction of Chlamydia pecorum and Koala Retrovirus subtype B expression in wild koalas vaccinated with novel peptide and peptide/recombinant protein formulations. Vaccine: X, p.100329. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvacx.2023.100329
Koalas are an endangered species under threat of extinction from several factors, including infections agents. Chlamydia pecorum infection results in morbidity and mortality from ocular and urogenital diseases while Koala Retrovirus (KoRV) infection has been linked to increased rates of cancer and chlamydiosis. Both C. pecorum and KoRV are endemic in many wild Australian koala populations, with limited treatment options available. Fortunately, vaccines for these pathogens are under development and have generated effective immune responses in multiple trials. The current study aimed to improve vaccine formulations by testing a novel peptide version of the Chlamydia vaccine and a combination Chlamydia – KoRV vaccine. Utilising a monitored wild population in Southeast Queensland, this trial followed koalas given either a ‘Chlamydia only’ vaccine (utilising four peptides from the chlamydial Major Outer Membrane Protein, MOMP), a combination ‘Chlamydia and KoRV’ vaccine (comprised of the chlamydial peptides plus a KoRV recombinant envelope protein (rEnv)) or no treatment. Clinical observations, C. pecorum and KoRV gene expression, serum IgG, and mucosal immune gene expression were assessed over a 17-month period. Overall, both vaccine formulations resulted in a decrease in chlamydiosis mortality, with decreases in C. pecorum, CD4, CD8β and IL-17A gene expression observed. In addition, the combination vaccine group also showed an increase in anti-KoRV IgG production that corresponded to a decrease in detected KoRV-B expression. While these results are favourable, the chlamydial peptide vaccine did not appear to outperform the established recombinant chlamydial vaccine and suggests that a combination vaccine formulated with recombinant MOMP plus KoRV rEnv could capitalize on the demonstrated benefits of both for the betterment of koalas into the future.
Speight, N., 2023. Koala retrovirus infection and disease in South Australian koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) populations. In Proceedings of the Second Koala Retrovirus Workshop (pp. 41-43). The Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia (a statutory authority of, and principally funded by, the NSW State Government). https://media.australian.museum/media/dd/documents/1839_complete.24cd49c.pdf
Koala retrovirus (KoRV) infection, endogenous in all northern koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus), has been found to occur at lower, but increasing, prevalence in the Kangaroo Island and Mount Lofty Ranges koala populations in South Australia. Proviral and viral loads are also lower than in Queensland koalas, which may be due to exogenous spread of infection, or may be related to the variable presence of viral genes and fragmented expression that has been found in positive Mount Lofty Ranges koalas. However, high proviral loads and full expression across the KoRV genome in South Australian koalas has been found in individuals with neoplasia, particularly lymphoma, which can be as extensive and as severe as that observed in northern koalas. KoRV-A is the predominant subtype and no association with chlamydial status has been found except that high viral loads correlate with severity of chlamydiosis. Based on the complexity of KoRV infections in South Australian koalas, further research is needed to understand the differences in transmission and pathogenesis that occur.
Richards, H.L., Adams, J.W. and Evans, A.R., 2023. Hanging on and digging deep: comparative forelimb myology of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) and common wombat (Vombatus ursinus). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, p.zlad018. https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlad018
Establishing relationships between soft tissues and bones in living species can inform our understanding of functional adaptations in their extinct kin in the absence of direct data on habitual behaviours. The koala and the wombats are the only surviving species of the vombatiform suborder, and represent the extant phylogenetic bracket for dozens of fossil marsupial species across nine families. Here we present the first quantitative architectural data on the forelimb myology of the koala and common wombat, alongside redescriptions based on physical and digital dissections. Despite obvious contrasts in how their forelimbs are used in arboreal (koala) and fossorial (wombat) functional contexts, overall they showed only minor differences in qualitative and quantitative measures of myology. When the architectural properties of antagonistic pairs of muscle groups crossing each joint were compared, the greatest contrasts were seen in muscles crossing the elbow, where the wombat exhibited greater relative emphasis on forceful elbow extension than the koala, indicative of adaptations for digging. Our findings reinforce the importance of the elbow as a useful system to explore when seeking discrimination between habitual patterns of forelimb use in extinct vombatiform species.
Tarlinton, R.E., 2023. An overview of koala retrovirus epidemiology in Australia. Technical Reports of the Australian Museum online, 38.
Koala retrovirus (KoRV) epidemiology varies across koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) populations with distinct differences in viral prevalence, sequence diversity, and disease impact. Curiously the more genetically restricted southern populations are less impacted by KoRV with the virus not endogenized in its replication competent form in these animals. These southern animals do, however, have replication defective recKoRV variants in their genomes indicating historical exposure to KoRV and recKoRV. Whether southern animals are inherently resistant to KoRV infection and endogenization is not clear. It is also not clear whether the current regional epidemiological patterns will persist or whether exposure to animals with infectious KoRV or cross-breeding between different genetic populations will change the KoRV prevalence with time.
Koala Science In Brief:
Singleton, C.L. and Hamlin-Andrus, C., 2023. Koala retrovirus status and putative koala retrovirus-associated diseases in koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) in North American Zoos. In Proceedings of the Second Koala Retrovirus Workshop (pp. 49-52). The Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia (a statutory authority of, and principally funded by, the NSW State Government).https://journals.australian.museum/singleton-2023-tech-rep-aust-mus-online-38-4952/
Hamilton, G., Winsen, M., McCormack, L. and Denman, S., 2023. Threatened Species Strategy Action Plan–Priority Species Grant: Koala Detection using Artificial Intelligence. https://eprints.qut.edu.au/240643/
Mottaghinia, S., McMichael, L. and Meers, J., 2023, June. Bats or rodents, who started it? Short history of the gibbon ape leukemia virus-koala retrovirus clade. In Proceedings of the Second Koala Retrovirus Workshop (pp. 15-18). The Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia (a statutory authority of, and principally funded by, the NSW State Government). https://journals.australian.museum/mottaghinia-2023-tech-rep-aust-mus-online-38-1518/
Rhodes, J.R., Beyer, H., Preece, H. and McAlpine, C., 2015. South East Queensland koala population modelling study.
This study was commissioned by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) to analyse data from the South East Queensland (SEQ) Koala Monitoring Program and to receive an independent assessment of the conservation status of the koala in the seven Local Government Areas (LGAs) that make up the ‘Koala Coast’ – Moreton Bay Regional Council, Noosa Shire Council, Ipswich City Council, Brisbane City Council, Redland City Council, Logan City Council and Gold Coast City Council. The primary aims of the project were to:
1) develop a model of relative koala density (here defined as the number of koalas per hectare) that could be used to predict koala densities across the seven LGAs in South East Queensland and to identify key correlates with koala density;
2) develop a model of trend in koala populations where possible and to identify any correlates with trend; and
3) provide any recommendations
Previous Koala News & Science here: http://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/koala-news-science/koala-news-science-may-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.