Old funds create new Koala Health Hub

3 March 2014

Dr Higgins is director of the Koala Health Hub which will provide koala carers with better access to tests and expertise.
Dr Higgins is director of the Koala Health Hub which will provide koala carers with better access to tests and expertise.

Koalas throughout NSW and potentially nationwide will benefit from the establishment of the Koala Health Hub at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Veterinary Science.

The funding of $400,000 for the Hub is money contributed by members of the public in the 1980s, including bags of five cent coins from thousands of school children.

"The Koala Health Hub is dedicated to supporting koala hospitals, veterinarians and researchers working to improve koala health and welfare, including the 950 sick or injured koalas hospitalised in NSW each year," said hub director Dr Damien Higgins from the University's Faculty of Veterinary Science.

The Koala Infectious Diseases Research Group and the Wildlife Health and Conservation Clinic in the Faculty of Veterinary Science have over 40 years of combined expertise in koala health and disease.

Their investigations into the diagnosis and treatment of infectious koala diseases that can cause respiratory and neurological disease, blindness, infertility and death, as well as management of burns and trauma, have created new knowledge and diagnostic methods.

"The Koala Health Hub brings the results of this research to the organisations and hospitals that care for koalas, supporting them with better access to quality diagnostic tests and clinical expertise," said Dr Higgins.

The funding will also directly support continuing specialist clinical care for koalas from the Sydney region at the University's University's Wildlife, Avian, Reptile and Exotic Pets Hospital at Camden.

Koala carers and veterinarians devote considerable time, effort and expense to koala care, but there are many challenges. Amongst these are that koalas respond in unusual ways to drugs used to treat some diseases in other species including not absorbing drugs in the same way.

Also, most tests used to diagnose diseases are not available to many carers due to their cost, or are difficult to apply to koalas because normal ranges for results may not be known.

The Koala Health Hub is also supported by the Faculty's Veterinary Pathology Diagnostic Service, who are donating pathology expertise, and record-keeping systems to ensure that information from testing can be retrieved and used to keep an eye on changes in disease patterns over time, or develop a better idea of what is a 'normal' test result.

The funds for the Koala Health Hub come from dormant funds originally collected by the Koala Park Sanctuary in West Pennant Hills. In the 1980s the Sanctuary appealed to the general public to contribute funds for a new koala hospital and research centre, and local residents, including school children, were among those to respond generously.

"We are delighted these funds can now be used to advance the care of our vulnerable koala populations. We also hope the links between the koala care, research and veterinary communities that will be created by the Koala Health Hub will assist the great work of other koala research and wildlife disease surveillance groups at the University of Sydney and nation-wide," said Dr Higgins.

Contact: Verity Leatherdale

Phone: (02) 9351 4312, 0403 067 342

Email: 250f383e05404b0f0f07105115284b231e012a2b0a121609335a230336405806