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


Christmas gifts that help koalas!

Raffle for koalas, Koala Clancy Foundation: https://www.koalaclancyfoundation.org.au/raffle
$10 per ticket, every ticket plants a tree. First prize: unique, hand-knitted, 100% wool shawl with a koala image in illusion knitting.

Koala Christmas cards, Port Stephens Koala Hospital: https://portstephenskoalas.com.au/product/christmas-cards/

International publicity for koala corridors NSW 22 November
Bangalow Koalas featured in this Reuters article.

Donations sought for Tuckers Nob koalas NSW
Community group acting to prevent the logging of Tuckers Nob is seeking funds to pay for ecologist services for a legal action. $8,570 has been raised of $10,000 needed. Let’s help them get their target.

Koala workshop at Peak Crossing QLD 30 November
Watergum and Queensland Trust For Nature held a community workshop at the property Koala Crossing, with speakers Dr Bill Ellis and Dave Madden. https://www.facebook.com/WatergumCommunity/posts/pfbid09Mq35wXJm42vYnSvRdijCyiCefm4UaYMWkpVSRdjjrsMoLXaWmWjpegogJosS7JWl

Another workshop is scheduled for 9 December at Tambourine Mountain. https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/community-koala-education-and-awareness-workshop-tamborine-mountain-tickets-743245064997?

Koala photographs on display in Brisbane QLD until 7 December.
The free exhibition “My future is in your hands” will be on at Brisbane City Hall until 7 December. Works are for sale, and donations to Queensland Koala Society are encouraged.

Festival for South Gippsland koalas, Sale VIC on 10 December
Presentations, food vans, live music and prizes for best dressed koala outfit. Sale Botanic Gardens from 10am on 10 December 2023.

Petition for wildlife crossing in Toohey Forest, Brisbane QLD
The wildlife crossing was promised at the last election, but has not been actioned. The petition already has 2,000+ signatures.

Koala groups call for road improvements over koala road death spike in NSW 23 November
A coalition of koala conservation groups have called on the NSW government to improve road design and lower speed limits to combat an increase in koala deaths on the roads. 30 koalas have been killed over 2km of road between Campbelltown and Appin, and 120 koalas have been hit in one area of northern NSW.

Fundraiser bush dance for koalas Noosa QLD 2 December
Noosa & Sunshine Coast region Wildcare are hosting a fundraiser bush dance at Pomona on Saturday 2 December.

Site of Moreton Bay Wildlife Hospital decided 23 November
The proposed hospital site at 420 Old Gympie Rd, Dakabin was voted at a recent council meeting.

Community feedback sought on koala strategy midcoast NSW 28 November
Midcoast Council are running community sessions on December 5, 6 & 7 in Tinonee, Bulahdelah & Gloucester on the formulation of the Midcoast Koala Strategy. Online feedback is possible at: https://haveyoursay.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/koala-strategy

Huge banner over Pacific Hwy Coffs Harbour NSW 30 November
Conservation groups have erected a banner in a high profile location claiming Labor are supporting koala extinction. The move is driven by extreme frustration over the slow pace of action on the Great Koala NP.

Disappointing ruling on Braemar & Myrtle, but new legal options for community groups NSW 20 November
The Land & Environment Court dismissed NEFA’s case to stop logging in Braemar & Myrtle State Forests. But the case has opened new doors for community groups, confirming that the court is open to community groups to take action to protect native species.

Magnetic Island Koala hospital upgrades start, more help needed 1 December
Magnetic Island Koala hospital is seeking donations to help upgrade their facilities in time for increased admissions over summer. New buildings are in, have plumbing, now need power and fitout.

Advice on keeping koalas safe in Macedon Ranges VIC 30 November
Tips from local wildlife shelter in Macedon, Woodend and Romsey.

More tree planting in Gympie QLD 28 November
Another 554 trees planted for koalas in Wolvi.


Latest Koala Science:


Pagliarani, S., Palmieri, C., McGowan, M., Carrick, F., Boyd, J. and Johnston, S.D., 2023. Anatomy of the Female Koala Reproductive Tract. Biology, 12(11), p.1445. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology12111445

The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), while being an iconic Australian marsupial, has recently been listed as endangered. To establish an improved understanding of normal reproductive anatomy, this paper brings together unpublished research which has approached the topic from two perspectives: (1) the establishment of an artificial insemination program, and (2) the definition of Chlamydia spp.-derived histopathological changes of the female koala urogenital system. Based on the presentation and histological processing of over 70 opportunistic specimens, recovered from wildlife hospitals in Southeast Queensland (Australia), we describe the gross and microanatomy of the koala ovary, oviduct, uteri, vaginal complex, and urogenital sinus during the interestrous, proliferative, and luteal phases of the reproductive cycle.


Fernandez, C.M., Krockenberger, M.B., Crowther, M.S., Mella, V.S., Wilmott, L. and Higgins, D.P., 2023. Genetic markers of Chlamydia pecorum virulence in ruminants support short term host-pathogen evolutionary relationships in the koala, Phascolarctos cinereus. Infection, Genetics and Evolution, p.105527. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2023.105527

In ruminants infected with Chlamydia pecorum, shorter lengths of coding tandem repeats (CTR) within two genes, the inclusion membrane protein (incA) and Type III secretor protein (ORF663), have been previously associated with pathogenic outcomes. In other chlamydial species, the presence of a chlamydial plasmid has been linked to heightened virulence, and the plasmid is not ubiquitous in C. pecorum across the koala’s range. We therefore investigated these three markers: incA, ORF663 and C. pecorum plasmid, as potential indicators of virulence in two koala populations in New South Wales with differing expression of urogenital chlamydiosis; the Liverpool Plains and one across the Southern Highlands and South-west Sydney (SHSWS). We also investigated the diversity of these loci within strains characterised by the national multi-locus sequence typing (MLST) scheme. Although CTR lengths of incA and ORF663 varied across the populations, they occurred only within previously described pathogenic ranges for ruminants. This suggests a relatively short-term host-pathogen co-evolution within koalas and limits the utility of CTR lengths for incA and ORF663 as virulence markers in the species. However, in contrast to reports of evolution of C. pecorum towards lower virulence, as indicated by longer CTR lengths in ruminants and swine, CTR lengths for ORF663 appeared to be diverging towards less common shorter CTR lengths within strains recently introduced to koalas in the Liverpool Plains. We detected the plasmid across 90% and 92% of samples in the Liverpool Plains and SHSWS respectively, limiting its utility as an indicator of virulence. It would be valuable to examine the CTR lengths of these loci across koala populations nationally. Investigation of other hypervariable loci may elucidate the evolutionary trajectory of virulence in C. pecorum induced disease in koalas. Profiling of virulent strains will be important in risk assessments for strain movement to naïve or susceptible populations through translocations and wildlife corridor construction.


Hulse, L.S., Thia, J.A., Schultz, B., Johnston, S.D. and Seddon, J.M., 2023. Measures of inbreeding and heterozygosity-fitness correlations in koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) from south-east Queensland, Australia.

Inbreeding threatens many species of conservation concern. Inbreeding decreases heterozygosity (increases homozygosity) and can drive up a population’s genetic load as deleterious mutations increase in frequency. Understanding how declining heterozygosity translates into declining fitness is of high importance for conservation practitioners. In this study, we investigated the potential effects of inbreeding on fitness traits in captive and wild populations of the iconic koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) from south-east Queensland, Australia. Using 5,757 ddRAD SNPs, we found that our sampled koalas were separated into three genetic groups: a captive group (N = 36) and two genetically distinct wild groups that were divided into northern (N = 41) and southern (N = 50) populations in the Gold Coast area. Inbreeding coefficients (FIS) were slightly lower in the captive population (0.003) compared to the wild northern (0.088). While the FIS value of the southern population (-0.006) suggests minimal inbreeding within the population. Heterozygosity-fitness correlations between four fitness traits (reproductive fitness, body mass, body condition score and disease expression) and SNP heterozygosity in each of the wild groups were non-significant. This lack of signal may have been due to small effect sizes (lower power), the greater influence of environmental contributors to measured traits, and/or possibly insufficient variation in inbreeding within the populations.


McDougall, F.K., Boardman, W.S., Speight, N., Stephenson, T., Funnell, O., Smith, I., Graham, P.L. and Power, M.L., 2023. Carriage of antibiotic resistance genes to treatments for chlamydial disease in koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus): A comparison of occurrence before and during catastrophic wildfires. One Health, p.100652. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.onehlt.2023.100652

Growing reports of diverse antibiotic resistance genes in wildlife species around the world symbolises the extent of this global One Health issue. The health of wildlife is threatened by antimicrobial resistance in situations where wildlife species develop disease and require antibiotics. Chlamydial disease is a key threat for koalas in Australia, with infected koalas frequently entering wildlife hospitals and requiring antibiotic therapy, typically with chloramphenicol or doxycycline. This study investigated the occurrence and diversity of target chloramphenicol and doxycycline resistance genes (cat and tet respectively) in koala urogenital and faecal microbiomes. DNA was extracted from 394 urogenital swabs and 91 faecal swabs collected from koalas in mainland Australia and on Kangaroo Island (KI) located 14 km off the mainland, before (n = 145) and during (n = 340) the 2019–2020 wildfires. PCR screening and DNA sequencing determined 9.9% of samples (95%CI: 7.5% to 12.9%) carried cat and/or tet genes, with the highest frequency in fire-affected KI koalas (16.8%) and the lowest in wild KI koalas sampled prior to fires (6.5%). The diversity of cat and tet was greater in fire-affected koalas (seven variants detected), compared to pre-fire koalas (two variants detected). Fire-affected koalas in care that received antibiotics had a significantly higher proportion (p < 0.05) of cat and/or tet genes (37.5%) compared to koalas that did not receive antibiotics (9.8%). Of the cat and/or tet positive mainland koalas, 50.0% were Chlamydia-positive by qPCR test. Chloramphenicol and doxycycline resistance genes in koala microbiomes may contribute to negative treatment outcomes for koalas receiving anti-chlamydial antibiotics. Thus a secondary outcome of wildfires is increased risk of acquisition of cat and tet genes in fire-affected koalas that enter care, potentially exacerbating the already significant threat of chlamydial disease on Australia’s koalas. This study highlights the importance of considering impacts to wildlife health within the One Health approach to AMR and identifies a need for greater understanding of AMR ecology in wildlife.


Williams, B., Archibald, C.L., Brazill-Boast, J., Drielsma, M., Thapa, R., Love, J., Cho, F., Lunney, D., Fitzsimons, J., Iftekhar, S. and Villarreal-Rosas, J., 2023. Optimal investments in private land conservation depend more on landholder preferences than climate change. bioRxiv, pp.2023-11. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.11.26.568746

Effective private land conservation strategies that consider both landholder preferences and future climatic conditions are critical for preserving biodiversity and ecosystem services. Yet, the interaction and relative importance of these factors for conservation planning performance is unknown. Here, we assess the importance of considering landholder preferences and climate change for prioritising locations for conservation tenders to recruit landholders for conservation covenants. To achieve this we develop a planning framework that accounts for the tender process to optimise investment across regions and apply it to koala-focused tenders in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, exploring four planning approaches that consider or are ignorant to landholder preferences and the tender process and/or climate change. We find that optimal investments depend more on landholder preferences than climate change, and when landholder preferences are ignored, there is little benefit in accounting for climate change. Our analysis reveals new insights into this important interaction.


Koala Science in Brief:


Fechner, D., Foote, L. and Rundle-Thiele, S., 2023. Who Submits Koala Sightings? Profiling Residents and Identifying Opportunities to Enhance their Experience. https://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.617


Zhu, L. and Wang, J., Community Series in the Wildlife Gut Microbiome and Its Implication for Conservation Biology, Volume II. Frontiers in Microbiology, 14, p.1329928. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2023.1329928/full


Akter, L., Hashem, M.A., Rakib, T.M., Rashid, M.H.O., Hossain, K.A., Akhter, R., Utsunomiya, M., Kitab, B., Hifumi, T., Miyoshi, N. and Maetani, F., 2023. Investigation of koala retrovirus in captive koalas with pneumonia and comparative analysis of subtype distribution. Archives of Virology, 168(12), p.298. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00705-023-05928-x


Lillie, M., Pettersson, M.E. and Jern, P., 2023. Contrasting segregation patterns among endogenous retroviruses across the koala population. bioRxiv, pp.2023-11. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.11.16.567356


Danaher, M., Shanks, B., Jones, B.T. and Schlagloth, R., 2023. How did they get there? A history of koalas on Queensland’s islands. Australian Zoologist. https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2023.039


Feature Paper:


Baek, C., Woolford, L., Funnell, O., McLelland, J., Eddy, S., Stephenson, T. and Speight, N., 2023. Cutaneous and Respiratory Lesions in Bushfire-Affected Koalas. Veterinary Sciences, 10(11), p.658.

In the wake of increasingly frequent bushfires emerging as a threat to wildlife worldwide, koalas have notably been the most rescued species in Australia. However, our understanding of burns and their severity in koalas is limited; hence, this study investigated the histopathological features and depth of burns in koala skin, as well as the presence of smoke-induced respiratory tract damage. In four bushfire-affected koalas that had been euthanised on welfare grounds, skin burns in various body regions were scored based on clinical appearance as superficial, partial thickness, or full thickness. Histological sections of affected regions of skin were assessed as Grades I–IV and showed that furred regions on the ear margins and dorsum were histologically more severe, at Grade III, compared with the clinical score. There was a similar finding for footpad burns, which were the most common body region affected. In the respiratory tract, pulmonary oedema and congestion were evident in all koalas. Overall, the results highlight that cutaneous burn lesions on furred and palmar/plantar surfaces can have higher severity based on the burn depth than is clinically apparent. Therefore, there is a need to consider this when developing treatment plans and establishing prognosis for burnt koalas at triage, as well as that a high likelihood of pulmonary oedema exists.


Previous Koala News & Science here: https://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/koala-news-science/koala-news-science-october-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.