Being killed by cars and dying from chlamydia were the top causes of a dramatic rise in south-east Queensland koala deaths over the past two decades.
This is according to a new study by UQ Veterinary Science Associate Professor Rachel Allavena and Dr Joerg Henning. “It’s important data collected over the span of the koala population crash,” Dr Allavena said. “Populations throughout the ‘Koala Coast’ declined by about 80 per cent over this period, so this iconic and famous species is in real trouble in our area.”
At least a quarter of the koalas hit by cars were otherwise in good health, meaning healthy, breeding animals were killed. About half of the population that died over the study period were affected by more than one disease or health problem. Chlamydia was particularly devastating for koalas, because of the potential to render females infertile and cause bladder and eye problems, making predator avoidance and food foraging harder.
Animal attacks, particularly from dogs, and wasting away from starvation, disease and poor teeth were other prominent causes of koala deaths.
Dr Henning said the research team had developed KoalaBASE, a web-based database about koalas coming into care in south-east Queensland facilities. “KoalaBASE enables data input at multiple veterinary centres, and use of the data by multiple stakeholders such as government departments and researchers.”
The researchers hope their data will help government agencies, koala groups, and hospitals better target resources to prevention and treatment.