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    Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability
    The Honourable Kate Jones

    Successful applicants announced for koala disease research funding

    Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability
    The Honourable Kate Jones

    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    Successful applicants announced for koala disease research funding

    The Queensland Government today announced four high level research projects will share in $400,000 to uncover new ways to reduce the impacts of disease on koala populations.

    Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Kate Jones said the Koala Disease Research Fund is an initiative of the Bligh Government, aimed at supporting important projects that can help boost the survival rate of koalas in Queensland.

    The four projects to receive a share in the funding include two research projects at the University of Queensland, one at the Queensland University of Technology and one being undertaken by the University of Melbourne in partnership with Melbourne Zoo.

    “These four projects are at the cutting edge of koala disease research,” Ms Jones said.

    “The different groups are looking at issues including the impact of stress on infertility and disease among koalas, the relationship between habitat loss and disease, and the ongoing prevalence of Chlamydia among koalas.

    “More than one in 10 koalas in the Koala Coast, for instance, are showing clinical signs of Chlamydia, and nearly half the number of koalas arriving at our koala hospitals in south east Queensland have disease as the determining factor.

    “More research is the key to better understanding the koala’s exposure to disease and how we could combat this threat.

    “We are pleased to be supporting such high quality research projects which can provide us with a great deal more information, insight and hopefully solutions to help stop the decline in koala populations in south-east Queensland in particular.”

    The first project receiving funding is being undertaken by a leading koala ecology group at the University of Queensland, focusing on the causes and consequences of disease in populations of Queensland koalas.

    Their study aims to determine the relationship between stress and disease to identify the ultimate causes of infertility and disease, and help develop tools that improve conservation outcomes for koalas.

    The second project by another group from the University of Queensland is working to identify the relationship between habitat loss and other environmental stressors for disease in koalas.

    It aims to provide new insights by targeting selected koala populations in urban and rural Queensland, building on previous and current research on the effect of habitat loss, fragmentation and climate variability on Queensland koala populations.

    The research project at the Queensland University of Technology is looking into a possible vaccine against Chlamydia which continues to be a major threat to the medium-to-long-term survival of the koala.

    The research group will evaluate a prototype Chlamydia vaccine by measuring the immune response of koalas and the level of protection achieved.

    The fourth project by researchers at the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Zoo will assess Chlamydia infection and identify the factors which determine the prevalence of clinical diseases resulting from infection which are not well understood.

    Ms Jones said the projects receiving funding were selected from a pool of applicants, assessed by an independent Scientific Panel.

    The research priorities they were assessed against included:

    ·Assess and develop appropriate methods to reduce vulnerability of wild populations to disease;

    ·Quantify the impacts of disease on breeding rates; and

    ·Develop tools that result in improved management outcomes.

    Ms Jones said the research funding complements a range of initiatives by the Bligh Government to help protect koalas and their habitat in south east Queensland, including:

    ·$43 million focused on buying new habitat and rehabilitating existing habitat;

    ·compulsory acquisition powers for koala habitat outside the urban footprint;

    ·new planning laws for councils to minimise koala impacts when assessing development applications in key koala areas;

    ·new model local law to help councils better manage dogs in koala habitat; and

    ·new planning laws to allow land swaps for strategic koala habitat corridors.

    “Our government is committed to protecting this vulnerable species and that is why we are taking action on a range of fronts to ensure the future of koalas in South East Queensland is secure,” Ms Jones said.

    Media Contact: 3239 0818