AIDS-like virus killing local koala population

GRIM FUTURE: A male koala at the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital suffering from the retrovirus. The virus has escalated in Ipswich.
GRIM FUTURE: A male koala at the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital suffering from the retrovirus. The virus has escalated in Ipswich. Contributed

DESPITE their best efforts, this little boy had to be put to sleep by veterinarians at the RSPCA's Wildlife Animal Hospital on Tuesday morning.

Staff didn't even have time to name him - they knew his battle against the deadly retrovirus, or "koala AIDS" - was already over.

RSPCA Queensland media spokesman Michael Beatty says the virus usually lies dormant in most Queensland koala populations but is now being seen more often.

"There has been a lot of research into what has caused this which suggests it is caused by increased stress because of habitat destruction and dog attacks," Mr Beatty said. "Koala Immune Deficiency Syndrome (KIDS) is an AIDS-like virus that leaves koalas more susceptible to disease and cancers."

RSPCA Wacol wildlife vet nurse Madeline Rienecker said there was still more research about retrovirus to be done. She said the main reason it was more prevalent was due to habitat fragmentation.

"In a way, it's kind of like AIDS so death does not usually occur directly from retrovirus - rather it comes from secondary infections like chlamydia," Ms Rienecker said. "We can't really prevent the spread."

Ipswich City Council Planning and Development Committee chairman Paul Tully said council was committed to the protection and preservation of local koalas.

"An area of more than 225sq km or 21% of all land across the city is protected under the Ipswich Planning Scheme as conservation zones," Cr Tully said.

"A further 71sq km of green space is also protected through recreation and other open space zones."

Cr Tully said council is currently reviewing the Ipswich Nature Conservation Strategy which will include measures for future koala habitat management and protection.

"Landholders can seek guidance from koala groups such as Ipswich Koala Protection Society and Australian Koala Foundation on how to reduce threats to koalas on their properties," he said.

If you find a sick or injured koala put a washing basket or box over them and phone the RSPCA or a wildlife carer

Phone the RSPCA on 1300 ANIMAL, the Ipswich Koala Protection Society on 0417604761, FAUNA on 1300328621, ONARR on 30302245, ARROW on 0430904415 or Queensland Parks and Wildlife on 1300130372

Topics:  koalas conservation

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