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WIRES to Fund Native Animal Diseases Research at University of Sydney

Monday, February 1, 2021

WIRES is funding research at University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science to better understand and manage wildlife diseases. The $200,000 grant over two years will support initiatives to improve disease diagnosis in native wildlife and ultimately improve long-term outcomes.

Disease outbreaks and resurgence in native wildlife are becoming more common due to the combination of climate change, unprecedented bushfires and long-term drought conditions.

According to WIRES CEO Leanne Taylor the grant aims to provide better understanding of disease causes, best practice treatment and ongoing issues such as likelihood of cross species transmission.

“Wildlife carers often rescue animals suffering with diseases and they rely on veterinarian advice to best treat and manage affected animals while in care,” said Leanne Taylor CEO WIRES. “More research into wildlife diseases is greatly needed particularly now with so many species moving to endangered status. We look forward to working with the University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science team to gain better insights into diagnosis and treatment for our native animals.”

The first phase of this project will be dedicated to surveying wildlife carers and veterinarians about the most common diseases that impact wildlife in care, that require better treatments or have indeterminate causes.

University of Sydney research lead, Professor David Phalen from the School of Veterinary Science said: “The funding from WIRES will ultimately result in a marked reduction in illness and improved chances for a successful release and long-term post release survival for any species of birds, mammals, and reptiles that are brought into care.

“The funding will also allow scientists at the University of Sydney, working with our partners, to determine the causes of many diseases that routinely impact wildlife – both in the wild and in care. Once the cause of a disease is known, means of treatment and control can be developed.”
Lorikeet paralysis syndrome and wombat road deaths are among the subjects of native animal research that funding will go towards.

Professor Phalen and his team previously uncovered and prevented further poisoning in both eastern grey kangaroos (iron poisoning through feeding on limited vegetation) and barn owls (poisoning due to eating mice and rats that had consumed rodent bait).

Professor Phalen was also part of a committee organised by Wildlife Health Australia that helped develop evidence-based wildlife feeding guidelines for the public, following the 2019-20 bushfire season.

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