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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Wild Koala Day success!
12 Events, 10 articles, 1 radio interview, hundreds of mentions on social media across Australia and the world on May 3, 2022. Read more:
A few reasons why koalas are important 27 May
CNET magazine article asks scientists what would happen if koalas did go extinct. Some of the answers are interesting.
2500 people walk for Toondah QLD 9 May
A crowd of 2500 people showed up at Cleveland for the rally to save Toondah Wetlands from destruction. The proposed Walker Corporation 3600 housing units will destroy 40 hectares of a RAMSAR wetland, endanger shorebirds and threaten a healthy population of koalas.
Huge crowd for Great Koala NP forum NSW 21 May
Over 100 community members turned up to a Great Koala National Park forum led by National Parks Assoc of NSW. Speakers included Gary Dunnett & James Sherwood from NPA, NEFA’s Dailan Pugh, tour operator Graeme Tupper and ecologist Mark Graham. 3 of the federal election candidates also presented their policies: Tim Lott (Greens), independent Caz Heise and Lib-Dem Simon Chaseling.
Clarence Valley Koala Working Group works with council to deliver better outcome for Koalas NSW 19 May
A housing development proposal that would have removed important koala habitat trees has been modified to preserve koala trees, thanks to consultation between Clarence Valley Koala Working Group and the community, council and the developer.
Audio recorders deliver results in SE NSW 30 April
Landowners in Numeralla near Cooma and Avonside near Jindabyne installed audio recorders in the hope of recording koala vocalisations. Numeralla, in the Tinderry Ranges, has recorded several male and female vocalisations, but just one male was recorded in Avonside. The project was organised by South East Local Land Services.
At last, some planning protection for koalas in Gympie QLD 27 May
After a long campaign by Koala Action Gympie Region & local environment groups, Gympie Regional Council has finally reinstated planning protections. The protections were repealed in December 2020 after being in place just 10 months, to the shock of the community.
Read Koala Action Gympie Region’s statement here: http://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/news/statement-relief-for-koalas-other-wildlife-in-gympie/
Council Press Release here: https://cqtoday.com.au/news/2022/05/29/a-win-for-wildlife/?
Revenge of the Koalas – US take on Fed election 21 May
This article in the progressive US magazine Mother Jones claims the sweeping changes in this election were due to koalas.
Link between chlamydia and koala retrovirus established 25 May
It has long been suspected that KoRV and chlamydia are linked, and a study by University of Queensland has now shown that all subtypes of KoRV make koalas more susceptible to chlamydia. Researchers now intend to study how environmental factors affect the spread of KoRV.
Evidence of koalas in Ballarat 28 Jan
Friends of Canadian Corridor & University of Melbourne researcher Louise Jory have completed a one year study of 68 sites in Wookwookarung Regional Park near Ballarat. Koala scat has been found.
Public survey on attitudes to koalas in Blue Mountains NSW 22 May
An online survey being run by Science For Wildlife is seeking to understand the attitudes of Blue Mountains residents to koalas. Survey closes this week.
NSW lists koalas as endangered 20 May
NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee recommended the change in status, and the NSW government has said it supports the recommendation. Independent MP Justin Field called on the government to stop logging koala habitat and Shadow Environment Spokesperson Penny Sharpe accused the government of attempting to bury the announcement just hours before the federal election.
Cultural burning to protect koala habitats NSW 17 April
An interview with cultural fire practitioner Yuin-Djiringanj traditional custodian Dan Morgan, about how the Black Summer megafires slowed when they approached an area that had been sensitively managed and protected from logging for years.
Volunteers search for koala poo on Mornington Peninsula VIC 2 May
Federation University researcher Kelly Smith is co-ordinating a study of Mornington Peninsula koala genetics from scat samples. Members of the public joined her once a week over May to help find the scat.
Two additions to National Park estate in NSW & QLD
Hard to call this positive news when NSW alone has approved the clearing of 1000 square kilometres in the last 4 years, and in Queensland 660,000 hectares of forest was bulldozed in just one year.
2400 hectares added to Tewantin NP QLD:
Total 2000 hectares added to 3 areas (Monaro, Yamba & Taree) in NSW:
Lunney, D., Cope, H., Sonawane, I. and Haering, R., 2022. A state-wide picture of koala rescue and rehabilitation in New South Wales during the 2019–2020 bushfires. Australian Zoologist.
Koala rescue from the bushfires over the extended 2019–2020 fire season in NSW was a high-profile media topic over many months. We sought to determine how many fire-affected koalas were rescued and admitted to rehabilitation in NSW, what was the fate of these koalas, what parts of the state were involved, and how many other koalas entered rehabilitation at the same time? These matters are not only of broad public interest, it is important information for the conservation and management of koalas. The fire season ended in March 2020. In June 2020 we wrote to and received replies from, the licensed rehabilitation groups in NSW that rescued koalas, seeking to quantify the impact of the 2019–2020 bushfires. The answers were: 209 koalas came into care due to the bushfires, and of these, 106 were either euthanised or died, 74 were released, and the remainder were still in care, but due for release soon. The number of koalas that came into care for reasons not related to the fires over the same time period was 307. From the point of view of each surviving individual koala, the rehabilitation was a success. What the rescue and rehabilitation has done is highlight the difficulties that koalas face in dealing with fire. This information will contribute to koala management at a local, State and Commonwealth level, particularly in relation to koala rehabilitation policies, and it will be increasingly important given the likelihood of more frequent fires.
Blyton, M.D., Pyne, M., Young, P. and Chappell, K., 2022. Koala retrovirus load and non-A subtypes are associated with secondary disease among wild northern koalas. PLoS pathogens, 18(5), p.e1010513.
With the koala now listed as vulnerable in Australia and local population declines of greater than 80% in part due to disease, it is now critically important to establish the role koala retrovirus (KoRV) plays in disease to guide future conservation efforts. While KoRV has previously been linked to increased rates of cancer in koalas, it is less clear whether it also increases the koalas’ susceptibility to other infections. We assessed how KoRV is associated with Chlamydia and a range of other diseases. We found that the amount of KoRV circulating in the blood was strongly associated with disease. KoRV exists as both a heritable virus in the koala’s genome and as an infectious virus. We found that the infectious forms of the virus are associated with higher levels of KoRV in the blood and directly with disease. These findings highlight the major role KoRV is likely to play in the high rate of disease in northern koala populations, which is contributing to their decline. We suggest that koala research and conservation should target understanding what drives differences among koalas in the amount of KoRV circulating in the blood and on limiting the spread of different KoRV subtypes between populations.
Silver, L.W., Cheng, Y., Quigley, B.L., Robbins, A., Timms, P., Hogg, C.J. and Belov, K., 2022. A targeted approach to investigating immune genes of an iconic Australian marsupial. Molecular Ecology.
Disease is a contributing factor to the decline of wildlife populations across the globe. Koalas, iconic yet declining Australian marsupials, are predominantly impacted by two pathogens, Chlamydia and koala retrovirus. Chlamydia is an obligate intracellular bacterium and one of the most widespread sexually transmitted infections in humans worldwide. In koalas, Chlamydia infections can present as asymptomatic or can cause a range of ocular and urogenital disease signs, such as conjunctivitis, cystitis and infertility. In this study, we looked at differences in response to Chlamydia in two northern populations of koalas using a targeted gene sequencing of 1209 immune genes in addition to genome-wide reduced representation data. We identified two MHC Class I genes associated with Chlamydia disease progression as well as 25 single nucleotide polymorphisms across 17 genes that were associated with resolution of Chlamydia infection. These genes are involved in the innate immune response (TLR5) and defence (TLR5, IFNγ, SERPINE1, STAT2 and STX4). This study deepens our understanding of the role that genetics plays in disease progression in koalas and leads into future work that will use whole genome resequencing of a larger sample set to investigate in greater detail regions identified in this study. Elucidation of the role of host genetics in disease progression and resolution in koalas will directly contribute to better design of Chlamydia vaccines and management of koala populations which have recently been listed as “endangered.”
Bowater, R.O., Horwood, P.F., Picard, J., Huisman, I., Hayes, L., Mackie, T. and Taylor, J.D., 2022. A novel alphaherpesvirus and concurrent respiratory cryptococcosis in a captive koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). Australian Veterinary Journal.
A novel alphaherpesvirus was detected in a captive adult, lactating, female koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) admitted to James Cook University Veterinary Emergency Teaching & Clinical Hospital in March 2019, showing signs of anorexia and severe respiratory disease. Postmortem examination revealed gross pathology indicative of pneumonia. Histopathology demonstrated a chronic interstitial pneumonia, multifocal necrotising adrenalitis and hepatitis. Intranuclear inclusion bodies were detected by light microscopy in the respiratory epithelium of the bronchi, bronchioles, alveoli, and hepatocytes, biliary epithelium and adrenal gland associated with foci of necrosis. Cryptococcus gattii was isolated from fresh lung on necropsy, positively identified by PCR, and detected histologically by light microscopy, only in the lung tissue. A universal viral family-level PCR indicated that the virus was a member of the Herpesviruses. Sequence analysis in comparison to other known and published herpesviruses, indicated the virus was a novel alphaherpesvirus, with 97% nucleotide identity to macropodid alphaherpesvirus 1. We provisionally name the novel virus phascolarctid alphaherpesvirus 3 (PhaHV-3). Further research is needed to determine the distribution of this novel alphaherpesvirus in koala populations and establish associations with disease in this host species.
KOALA SCIENCE IN BRIEF:
Hewson, M., Santamaria, F. and Melzer, A., 2022. Field Testing Satellite-Derived Vegetation Health Indices for a Koala Habitat Managers Toolkit. Remote Sensing, 14(9), p.2119.
Kerlin, D., Grogan, L. and McCallum, H., Insights and inferences on koala conservation from records of koalas arriving to care in Southeast Queensland. Wildlife Research.
Winsen, M., Denman, S., Corcoran, E. and Hamilton, G., 2022. Automated Detection of Koalas with Deep Learning Ensembles. Remote Sensing, 14(10), p.2432.
Hashem, M.A., Kayesh, M.E.H., Maetani, F., Goto, A., Nagata, N., Kasori, A., Imanishi, T. and Tsukiyama-Kohara, K., 2022. Subtype distribution and expression of the koala retrovirus in the Japanese zoo koala population. Infection, Genetics and Evolution, p.105297.
Cope HR, McArthur C, Dickman CR, Newsome TM, Gray R, Herbert CA (2022) A systematic review of factors affecting wildlife survival during rehabilitation and release. PLoS ONE 17(3): e0265514. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0265514
Millions of native animals around the world are rescued and rehabilitated each year by wildlife rehabilitators. Triage and rehabilitation protocols need to be robust and evidence-based, with outcomes consistently recorded, to promote animal welfare and better understand predictors of wildlife survival. We conducted a global systematic review and meta-analysis of 112 articles that reported survival rates of native mammals and birds during rehabilitation and after release to determine intrinsic and extrinsic factors associated with their survival. We assessed survival during rehabilitation and in the short- and long-term post-release, with the hypothesis that survival will vary as a function of species body size, diel activity pattern, trophic level and study location (region of the world). We aimed to determine the direction of effect of these factors on survival to assist in decision-making during triage and rehabilitation. Results showed that mammals and birds were equally likely to survive all stages of rehabilitation, and survival rates varied between locations. Birds in North America had the poorest survival rates post-release, particularly long-term, as did diurnal and carnivorous birds in the short-term post-release. Anthropogenic factors such as motor vehicle collisions and domestic or feral animal attack contributed to morbidity and post-release mortality in 45% (168 of 369) of instances. The reasons for rescue and associated severity of diagnosis were commonly reported to affect the likelihood of survival to release, but factors affecting survival were often species-specific, including bodyweight, age, and characteristics of the release location. Therefore, evidence-based, species-specific, and context-specific protocols need to be developed to ensure wildlife survival is maximised during rehabilitation and post-release. Such protocols are critical for enabling rapid, efficient rescue programs for wildlife following natural disasters and extreme weather events which are escalating globally, in part due to climate change.
Previous Koala News & Science here: http://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/koala-news-science/koala-news-science-april-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.