Vaccination of Wild Koalas Against Chlamydia

Australian scientists have embarked on a groundbreaking initiative to vaccinate wild koalas against chlamydia in New South Wales. This field trial aims to protect these iconic marsupials from the devastating effects of the disease, including blindness, infertility, and death. With the decline in Australia’s wild koala population over the past two decades, this vaccination program holds promise for their conservation.

Protecting Koalas from Chlamydia

The main goal of the vaccination campaign is to capture, administer vaccines to, and closely observe approximately fifty percent of the koala population in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales.  By administering the vaccine, researchers hope to increase the koalas’ resistance to chlamydia, which has been responsible for their declining numbers.

Safety and Effectiveness Testing

Before conducting the field trial, the safety and effectiveness of the single-shot vaccine were assessed through prior testing on a few hundred koalas brought to wildlife rescue centers. These initial studies paved the way for the current trial, which focuses on understanding the impact of vaccinating a population of wild koalas.

Methodology and Process

To vaccinate the koalas, scientists employ a careful process. Using binoculars, they locate koalas in eucalyptus trees and create circular enclosures around the bases of the trees, leading to cages. Following a period of several hours or days, the koalas descend from the trees and willingly enter these safe enclosures. Once captured, the animals undergo a check-up to ensure their good condition. Anesthesia is then administered, followed by the vaccine. After waking up, the koalas are closely monitored for 24 hours to identify any unexpected side effects. In order to avoid capturing the same koalas again, scientists apply a small amount of pink dye on the backs of the vaccinated koalas.

Preserving Koala Population

The decline of Australia’s wild koala population in the last two decades has prompted concerns about their survival. Eastern regions of New South Wales, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory have already declared koalas as “endangered.” Alarmingly, approximately half of the wild koalas in Queensland are estimated to be infected with chlamydia. The vaccination program aims to mitigate this threat and strike a balance between the risk of disturbing the animals during capture and the danger of the disease spreading further.




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