University of Sydney

Koala Research

WIRES is supporting the Koala Health Hub (KHH) a University of Sydney initiative to support koala care, management and research with a 3 year grant to sustain the KHH and allow it to respond to increasing need for koala care and management following recent bushfire and droughts.

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, be they in the clinic or in the wild.

WIRES funding will be used to help KHH to 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 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, “WIRES’ support 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. To assess population recovery, and to safely plan, implement and evaluate recovery actions we need to understand disease and other health issues. 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, and 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.”

Native Animals Diseases Research

WIRES is also 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.

The grant aims to provide better understanding of disease causes, best practice treatment and ongoing issues such as likelihood of cross species transmission.

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.

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.

Read the latest University of Sydney Native Wildlife Health and Disease Research Grant Update

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