Koala chlamydia affects 60 per cent of koalas that are admitted to the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital and is having a significant impact on koalas in the region. The figures have continued to rise each year.
In 2020 the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital started vaccinating koalas against chlamydia before releasing them into the wild. The goal is to vaccinate every koala that is admitted to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital for treatment, rehabilitation, and release. It’s hoped this will provide the wild population with lifelong protection against the deadly illness and allow them to produce healthy joeys.
They have also been working on the vaccine program with the Queensland University of Technology to determine the level of vaccine required.
Currumbin Wildlife Hospital Senior Vet Dr Michael Pyne said the aim of the research trial is to control koala chlamydia and increase fertility and reproduction.
‘We are working to establish the level of vaccination required within the species to prevent the localised extinction of koalas,’ he said.
‘The research trial is based in the Elanora koala population, as this is the most diseased population on the Gold Coast. 88 per cent of these koalas admitted to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital test positive for chlamydia.’
Overall the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital admitted around 500 koalas last year with 60 per cent of them suffering from chlamydia, one of the leading contributors to the species’ dramatic population decline.
Cassidy, one of the koalas participating in the research trial, is pregnant. Her joey will be the first baby born to a koala in the trial.
‘It’s encouraging that Cassidy is pregnant and negative to chlamydia, not only for the research trial but for the entire Koala species,’ said Dr Pyne.
‘It’s still very early stages and too early to say if the vaccine will be a long-term solution, however Cassidy is making us hopeful.’
The partnership with Queensland University of Technology’s Professor Kenneth Beagley has seen 154 koalas that have been released back into the wild administered the lifesaving chlamydia vaccine.
’It’s fantastic news that the vaccine has protected Cassidy and that she is now pregnant with a joey, despite living in a population with a very high prevalence of chlamydia,’ said Professor Beagley.
‘I do have cautious optimism for the future of the species. Hopefully, we can repeat this and see the Koala population increase over time.’
Eleven koalas from the heavily diseased Elanora population have been vaccinated and released with GPS tracking collars as part of the research trial. The goal is to capture and vaccinate a total of 30 Koalas in the Elanora area and track each one for three years, recapturing them every six months to test for chlamydia, general health, reproductive status, and vaccine immunity.
Professor Beagley said, ‘I look forward to continuing to assist Currumbin Wildlife Hospital in their efforts to vaccinate all koalas prior to their release back into the wild.’
Community support is essential to push forward with this critical work. Donate now currumbinwildlifehospital.org.au
Currumbin Wildlife Hospital’s chlamydia vaccine research trial is still in its early stages and has been made possible with the support of The Neumann Family, Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, The City of Gold Coast, WildArk and Rotary.