An informative monthly newsletter about successes & important announcements in koala conservation, and the latest scientific publications about koalas.

March, 2020

Land added to Mount Walsh National Park, Qld 6 Mar

Over 3000 ha of land will be added to Mount Walsh National Park, near Maryborough Qld. The addition may contain koala habitat. Brisbane Times

Wild Koala Day, May 3 to go ahead as virtual event

Wild Koala Day, a national day to celebrate koalas living in the wild, will go ahead online, digitally and in people’s homes on Sunday May 3, 2020. Australians encouraged to wear a gum leaf (real or home-made) for the day to demonstrate the importance of trees & forests for koala survival. Wild Koala Day

Tree planting starts in Bangalow, northern NSW early March

Bangalow Koalas have planted 3200 trees at Binna Burra and 1000 at Federal. Community tree planting events have been postponed until restrictions are lifted. Bangalow Koalas

2000 koala trees planted at Ringtail Forest Noosa, Qld 29 Feb

150 community members planted 2,000 trees. The project, organised by Noosa Parks Association, Noosa Council, Noosa and District Landcare, Qld State Government, Queensland Koala Crusaders, and sponsored by Body Shop UK and Australia, Peppers Noosa Resort & Villas, aims to reforest 2,400 hectares at Yurol and Ringtail Forest that will be declared National Park. Noosa Koala Sightings

Knitting while Australia burns: Article by Henriette Jager, Oak Ridge National Laboratory USA 24 Feb

Headlines about koala mittens may seem to trivialize the problem in the public eye, they also demonstrate widespread global support for addressing climate threats to biodiversity. Moving quickly toward a carbon-neutral economy and developing climate adaptation plans that consider wildfire should be priorities knitted into the fabric of government, industry and individual decisions worldwide. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0710-7

Call for emergency uplisting for NSW koalas 4 Mar

Ifaw’s Josey Sharrad called on NSW environment minister, Matt Kean, to ask that koalas be “emergency uplisted” to endangered status. Humane Society International, Port Macquarie koala hospital & Friends of the Koala also signed the request. Emergency listing could offer koalas some immediate extra protection from developments & logging. Assessment is continuing. Guardian

Laser therapy treats koala burn patients 2 Mar

Super pulsed laser therapy used successfully on Koala burn patients at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. Laser speeds healing and relieves pain. Veterinary Practice News



Whisson, DA, Ashman, KR. When an iconic native animal is overabundant: The koala in southern Australia. Conservation Science and Practice. 2020;e188. https://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.188

Management of overabundant native species is challenging at the best of times but is even more so when it involves an iconic species that is threatened in part of its range. Here, we examine koala overabundance, a situation that arises in some locations within the species’ southern range. We consider the variable conservation status of the koala throughout its range, discuss where and why overabundance occurs, and its consequences. Programs to manage koala overabundance and impacts are generally ineffective, relying on costly and slow acting fertility control and translocation, and implemented only when a crisis already has occurred. A change in management approach is needed. Decisions should be based on an evidence‐based and transparent decision‐making framework that involves predicting where overabundance is likely, where damage costs will be high, and where proactive management is likely to be effective. With more than 65% of Australia’s koala population occurring in the south and declining northern populations, a more considered approach to managing southern koalas for conservation of the species is needed.

J. Fabijan, N. Sarker, N. Speight, H. Owen, J. Meers, G. Simmons, J. Seddon, R.D. Emes, R. Tarlinton, F. Hemmatzadeh, L. Woolford, D.J. Trott, Pathological Findings in Koala Retrovirus-positive Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) from Northern and Southern Australia, Journal of Comparative Pathology, 176, 2020, 50-66,


Koala retrovirus (KoRV) infection shows differences in prevalence and load between northern and southern Australian koala populations; however, the effect of this on diseases such as lymphoma and chlamydial disease is unclear. This study compared clinicopathological findings, haematology and splenic lymphoid area of KoRV-positive koalas from northern (Queensland [Qld], n = 67) and southern (South Australia [SA], n = 92) populations in order to provide further insight into KoRV pathogenesis. Blood was collected for routine haematology and for measurement of KoRV proviral load by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Plasma samples were assessed for KoRV viral load by reverse transcriptase qPCR and conjunctival and cloacal swabs were collected for measurement of the load of Chlamydia pecorum (qPCR). During necropsy examination, spleen was collected for lymphoid area analysis. Lymphoma was morphologically similar between the populations and occurred in koalas with the highest KoRV proviral and viral loads. Severe ocular chlamydial disease was observed in both populations, but urinary tract disease was more severe in Qld, despite similar C. pecorum loads. No associations between KoRV and chlamydial disease severity or load were observed, except in SA where viral load correlated positively with chlamydial disease severity. In both populations, proviral and viral loads correlated positively with lymphocyte and metarubricyte counts and correlated negatively with erythrocyte and neutrophil counts. Splenic lymphoid area was correlated positively with viral load. This study has shown further evidence for KoRV-induced oncogenesis and highlighted that lymphocytes and splenic lymphoid tissue may be key sites for KoRV replication. However, KoRV infection appears to be highly complex and continued investigation is required to fully understand its pathogenesis.


K.R. Ashman, A.R. Rendall, M.R.E. Symonds, D. Whisson, Understanding the role of plantations in the abundance of an arboreal folivore, Landscape and Urban Planning, 193, 2020, 103684, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2019.103684.

We detected higher mean koala density in plantation than in native vegetation sites
Mean soil organic carbon was the strongest predictor of koala density.
We provide an abundance map that identifies priority areas for population management.
Overall landscape configuration should be considered for resource management actions.


Koala Science in brief:

Sarker, N., Fabijan, J., Owen, H. et al. Koala retrovirus viral load and disease burden in distinct northern and southern koala populations. Sci Rep 10, 263 (2020). doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-56546-0

Nishat Sarker, Rachael Tarlinton, Helen Owen, Richard David Emes, Jennifer Seddon, Greg Simmons, Joanne Meers, Novel insights into viral infection and oncogenesis from koala retrovirus (KoRV) infection of HEK293T cells, Gene, Volume 733, 2020, 144366, ISSN 0378-1119, doi.org/10.1016/j.gene.2020.144366.

Matthew Mo and Robert Oliver (2020) Managing non-releasable animals following rehabilitation: the current management framework in New South Wales, recent trends and a stakeholder consultative review. Australian Zoologist In-Press. https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2020.013

Dr Anne Fowler (update 2020) Treatment of Burnt Wildlife https://www.ava.com.au/siteassets/library/other-resources/treatment-of-burnt-wildlife-summary-dr-anne-fowler.pdf

Mark B Krockenberger, Caroline Marschner, Patricia Martin, George Reppas, Catriona Halliday, Laura J Schmertmann, Andrea M Harvey, Richard Malik, Comparing immunochromatography with latex antigen agglutination testing for the diagnosis of cryptococcosis in cats, dogs and koalas, Medical Mycology, Volume 58, Issue 1, 2020, 39–46, https://doi.org/10.1093/mmy/myz010

Ashman Kita R., Whisson Desley A. (2020) Developing guidelines for the use of traps to capture koalas. Australian Mammalogy , https://doi.org/10.1071/AM20018

Boath, J.M.; Dakhal, S.; Van, T.T.H.; Moore, R.J.; Dekiwadia, C.; Macreadie, I.G. Polyphasic Characterisation of Cedecea colo sp. nov., a New Enteric Bacterium Isolated from the Koala Hindgut. Microorganisms 2020, 8, 309. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2607/8/2/309

Md Abul Hashem, Fumie Maetani, Mohammad Enamul Hoque Kayesh, Taiki Eiei, Kyoya Mochizuki, Ayaka Ito, Hiroko Sakurai, Takayuki Asai, Kyoko Tsukiyama-Kohara Transmission of koala retrovirus from parent koalas to a joey in a Japanese zoo Journal of Virology Mar 2020, JVI.00019-20; DOI: 10.1128/JVI.00019-20

Leoné M. Immelman and Natasha Speight “CHANGES IN ANTIOXIDANT CAPACITY OF KOALAS (PHASCOLARCTOS CINEREUS) BASED ON HEALTH STATUS AND MEASUREMENT OF THE ANTIOXIDANT ASCORBATE IN EUCALYPT LEAVES,” Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 50(4), 861-867, (9 January 2020). https://doi.org/10.1638/2018-0234

Kimble, B, Vogelnest, L, Gharibi, S, Izes, AM, Govendir, M. Pharmacokinetic profile of amoxicillin and its glucuronide‐like metabolite when administered subcutaneously to koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus). J vet Pharmacol Therap. 2020; 43: 115– 122. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvp.12767

Speight, N., Gates, M., Scriven, J., Stephenson, T. and Woolford, L. (2020), Symmetric dimethylarginine values in koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) based on oxalate nephrosis status. Aust Vet J. doi:10.1111/avj.12935

Philip M.R. Downey, Charles G.B. Caraguel, Natasha Speight, Jessica Fabijan, Wayne S.J. Boardman, Field immobilization using alfaxalone and alfaxalone–medetomidine in free-ranging koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus): a randomized comparative study, Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaa.2019.10.009.

Courtney A. Waugh and Peter Timms “A proposed roadmap for the control of infections in wildlife using Chlamydia vaccine development in koalas Phascolarctos cinereus as a template,” Wildlife Biology 2020(1). https://doi.org/10.2981/wlb.00627

Fabijan, J., Speight, N., Boardman, W., Hemmatzadeh, F., Trott, D. and Woolford, L. (2020), Haematological reference intervals of wild southern Australian koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus). Aust Vet J. doi:10.1111/avj.12923


Ward, M., Rhodes, J.R., Watson, J.E., Lefevre, J., Atkinson, S. and Possingham, H.P. (2020), Use of surrogate species to cost‐effectively prioritize conservation actions. Conservation Biology. https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cobi.13430


Conservation efforts often focus on umbrella species whose distributions overlap with many other flora and fauna. However, because biodiversity is affected by different threats that are spatially variable, focusing only on the geographic range overlap of species may not be sufficient in allocating the necessary actions needed to efficiently abate threats. We developed a problem‐based method for prioritizing conservation actions for umbrella species that maximizes the total number of flora and fauna benefiting from management while considering threats, actions, and costs. We tested our new method by assessing the performance of the Australian federal government’s umbrella prioritization list, which identifies 73 umbrella species as priorities for conservation attention. Our results show that the federal government priority list benefits only 6% of all Australia’s threatened terrestrial species. This could be increased to benefit nearly half (or 46%) of all threatened terrestrial species for the same budget of AU$550 million/year if more suitable umbrella species were chosen. This results in a 7‐fold increase in management efficiency. We believe nations around the world can markedly improve the selection of prioritized umbrella species for conservation action with this transparent, quantitative, and objective prioritization approach.

Results show these are the 7 most effective umbrella species (in order): Australasian Bittern, Koala, Regent Honeyeater, Far Eastern Curlew, Red Goshawk, Purple Clover, Matted Flax-lily.