Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Super koalas bred to save endangered east coast colonies

Emma Benns, May 1, 2022 2:30PM Kids News

Print Article

Two-year-old Jagger has been bred with healthy genes as part of the Living Koala Genome Bank pilot project. Picture: University of Queensland media_cameraTwo-year-old Jagger has been bred with healthy genes as part of the Living Koala Genome Bank pilot project. Picture: University of Queensland

animals

Reading level: green

A specially bred koala called Jagger could be the key to saving endangered* koala colonies along the east coast of Australia.

Koalas are famous worldwide for being cute, cuddly and sleepy. But their numbers are in dramatic decline due to habitat loss and diseases like chlamydia, an infection which is spreading through populations, making koalas very sick.

To help, the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and the Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation have come together to breed super koalas with healthy genes that can be released into the wild to boost the health of threatened populations.

Jagger, the first koala bred in the Living Koala Genome Bank pilot project*, spent his first two years at Dreamworld’s koala breeding centre before being released to live in a koala colony in Elanora Conservation Park on the Gold Coast.

media_cameraSuper koala Jagger is released into the wild at Elanora Conservation Park by Associate Professor Stephen Johnston and Michele Barnes. Picture: University of Queensland

“Jagger is fully vaccinated against chlamydia, is disease free and, thanks to his diverse* genetics, will help protect koalas in this population,” said Associate Professor Stephen Johnston, from the University of Queensland’s school of agriculture and food sciences.

The federal government announced in February that it planned to list koalas as endangered in NSW, Queensland and the ACT after populations were ravaged* by the Black Summer bushfires, as well as drought, disease and habitat loss.

The cutting down of eucalyptus trees to make way for roads, houses and other buildings is a big problem, because koalas have a big diet – they can eat up to 1kg of eucalyptus leaves a day!

Jagger is just one of the super koalas bred in the recently completed Living Koala Genome Bank pilot project.

Two-year-old Jagger, the first koala bred in the Living Koala Genome Bank pilot project, has been released on the Gold Coast media_cameraJagger is the first koala bred as part of the Living Koala Genome Bank pilot project.

Dr Johnston said the team bred the super koalas to have “high genetic merit”. This means they not only have healthy, disease-free genes but also a variety of genes, which is critical for a species to be able to adapt to changing environments.

By releasing the specially bred super koalas into the wild, it is hoped they will mate with other koalas and boost the population’s genetic diversity* and resistance to disease.

Dr Johnston said he hoped the initiative could be expanded into other wildlife parks to help “safeguard the future of koalas”.

media_cameraDreamworld head of life sciences Michele Barnes and Associate Professor Stephen Johnston, from Queensland University’s school of agriculture and food sciences, have worked on the Living Koala Genome Bank pilot project which has bred disease free super koalas like Jagger. Picture: University of Queensland

Dreamworld head of life sciences Michele Barnes said the project came at a critical time for koalas.

“Koala population densities* have seen a rapid decline – in the order of 80 per cent – in the past 25 years,” Ms Barnes said.

“With most east coast koalas now listed as endangered, so much more needs to be done in this space to protect them from extinction.”

GLOSSARY

  • endangered: a species at serious risk of extinction
  • pilot project: a small project or study done before deciding if it is worth conducting a larger one
  • ravaged: severely damaged, devastated
  • diverse/diversity: having a great deal of variety
  • densities: the number of species in particular places

EXTRA READING

Koalas to be listed as endangered

Koalas at risk as numbers halve in 20 years

Bushfires threaten 49 Australian species

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What name has been given to this super koala?
  2. What is the name of the pilot project that has bred these super koalas?
  3. The super koalas are being bred to have healthy what?
  4. In which parts of Australia are koalas about to be listed as endangered?
  5. List three reasons koala populations have been declining?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Create a brochure
Conduct some research about koalas and create a brochure or infographic about the species. Consider the following questions:

  • What do koalas like to eat? (diet)
  • Where do koalas like to live? (habitat)
  • How long do koalas live for?
  • What are the predators or dangers to koalas?
  • Are koalas endangered?
  • What are three interesting facts about koalas?

Time: allow 30-40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Geography, Science

2. Extension
Write a letter to the Australian government, addressed to the prime minister. Persuade the government to help protect this cuddly species.

Consider the following questions:

  • How can the federal government help koalas?
  • How can all Australians help koalas?

Time: allow 30-40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Geography, Science

VCOP ACTIVITY
Proper noun police
A proper noun is a noun that names a particular person, place or thing. It always has a capital letter.

How many proper nouns can you find within this article? Find them all and sort them into the category of name, place, time (date/month).

Can you find any proper nouns included in your writing? What are they? Can you sort them into their categories?

Extra Reading in animals