WIRES uses bushfire donations to support University koala research

Saturday, July 11, 2020

WIRES has announced a three-year grant to the Koala Health Hub (KHH) a University of Sydney's School of Veterinary Science initiative to support koala care, management and research. The grant will sustain the KHH and allow it to respond to increasing need for koala care and management following recent bushfires and droughts.

“WIRES fully support the critical work being undertaken by Koala Health Hub,” said WIRES CEO Leanne Taylor. “Thanks to the incredible financial support we received in response to Australia’s bushfires we are now in the position to fund this significant research initiative.”

“The plight of Australian native animals and in particular the koala is in the spotlight and we need to take action now and do whatever it takes to halt the decline of their numbers in the wild,” she said.

The donation of $1,012,399 is the largest one-off living gift made to the University’s School of Veterinary Science, where the Koala Health Hub sits. Donations to WIRES were made by both local and international donors including from the US, UK, Asia and Europe. 

KHH benefits koala welfare and conservation by providing laboratory support and evidence-based information to those at the coalface of care and management of koalas, whether in the clinic or in the wild. 

WIRES’ (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc)) funding will be used to help KHH provide diagnostic support, expertise and coordination and communication to rehabilitation, university and government sectors. This includes funding a postdoctoral researcher and three PhD students, which will contribute to Australia’s pool of wildlife expertise and provide ‘boots on the ground’ to answer key questions to assist koala management.

Prior to the bushfires WIRES worked with KHH and the University's wildlife clinic at Camden to clinically assess koalas in care and as a referral resource for rescues needing rehabilitation.

According to Koala Health Hub Director, Associate Professor Damien Higgins this grant honours the generous public donations to WIRES during the bushfires by providing the means to better manage the recovery of surviving koalas, and to better prepare for future events.

“The Koala Health Hub was established in 2015 and WIRES has been a valued collaborator from the start. Their support now will make a really significant difference to what we can achieve for koala care and conservation following the recent bushfires and drought. On top of the importance of health and disease to individual welfare, it is a key part of the viability and recovery of koala populations and their management. Koalas have long been under pressure from a range of threats and the recent bushfires have added to that”, said Associate Professor Higgins.

“To assess population recovery, and to safely plan, implement and evaluate recovery actions we need to understand disease and other health issues. Our field and clinical research targets these issues but up till now has been limited by funding,” continued Higgins.

“The need for diagnostic support and disease expertise is greater than ever. Numbers of koalas in care is increasing due to drought, longer term impacts from fire, and the ongoing pressures of habitat loss. Population recovery will require sound evidence-based decisions across habitat management, captive breeding and translocation, as well as coordination and capacity building in the rescue and rehabilitation sector. In addition to supporting our own research, the funding will further enable the great work being done by other koala care, research and government groups, so the benefits of this funding go far beyond KHH.”

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