Trauma and disease ravage SEQ koalas

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koala mortality
What’s behind koala mortality?

It’s well known that South East Queensland koalas are doing it tough but a University of Queensland (UQ) study sheds new light on the multiple issues afflicting them.

The UQ team—who have published their findings in Scientific Reports—investigated the relationship between disease and mortality in South East Queensland koalas.

“Trauma and infectious disease are the most common single diagnoses in koalas, however koalas often are affected by more than one medical condition,” researcher Dr Rachel Allavena said.

“Chlamydia is the most frequently reported infectious disease, and it remains the biggest factor in koala deaths and infertility.”

Colleague Dr Joerg Henning noted that trauma, often as a result of traffic collisions or animal attacks, was the leading cause of death for healthy koalas. (Editor’s note: In light of the current bushfires ravaging the state, this may no longer be the case!)

“Our study showed that many koalas killed by trauma were often otherwise fit and healthy. This can have detrimental impacts by reducing healthy breeding stock,” Dr Henning said.

The findings were the result of a survey of more than 500 dead koalas, conducted at UQ’s School of Veterinary Science.

“Compared to males, a disproportionate number of female breeding-age koalas were diagnosed with chlamydia in the reproductive system compared to males, despite the similarity in infection rates across sexes,” Dr Henning said.

The chlamydia in the females causes permanent infertility, not only debilitating that female but stopping her having joeys and rebuilding the population.

“Our study showed that these koalas with Chlamydia were often very skinny, making them hard to rehabilitate and release back into the wild,” Dr Henning added.

“Having data on what is killing and harming koalas will allow us to better understand what threats need to be controlled in order to improve population numbers in South East Queensland.”

This article was sourced from the UQ News website.

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