SURVIVORS: Koalas found in the Ipswich region appear to be more resistant to the effects of chlamydia.
SURVIVORS: Koalas found in the Ipswich region appear to be more resistant to the effects of chlamydia.

Ipswich’s koalas may hold genetic key to survival

RESEARCHERS believe Ipswich has the most significant koala population in the country with a potential genetic key to the survival of the species.

A report released yesterday by one of the nation's leading koala ecology experts, University of Queensland researcher Bill Ellis, identifies the region has surpassed the Koala Coast of Redland City and Moreton Bay council areas as the world's most significant koala habitat.

Dr Ellis said the koala population in Ipswich was believed to be the largest and had a genetic differentiation significant to koala conservation as they appeared to be resilient to the effects of the chlamydia disease threatening colonies.

He said studies in the early 1990s in the west of Ipswich had shown the koala population might have genetic information of value to the survival of the species.

"There is a very low occurrence of disease but there was quite a high occurrence of infection. Quite a few koalas were infected with chlamydia but not many of them got sick and most of the females had babies," De Ellis said.

"These koalas may have some resistance or some capacity to fight infection in this population. There might be something about this group and it could be genetically linked that protects them from chlamydia."

Dr Ellis said the Ipswich koalas were closely related to Beaudesert koala colonies but were unique.

"There have been three studies looking at the genetics of this population ... these animals are unique," he said.

He said there were between 1546 and 4368 koalas in the Ipswich region.

"When I started working on the Koala Coast there were 7000 plus koalas, now we think there are about 1600," Dr Ellis said.

"At a real rough bottom line, there has to be more koalas in the Ipswich area than there is in what is thought of as one of the most significant koala populations anywhere."

He said Ebenezer, Purga, Peak Crossing, Mt Walker and Mt Forbes were key koala areas that should be revegetated and protected.

"Governments need to know where the koala colonies are, connect them up and not develop areas like Purga and Peak Crossing.

"They will also have to have development that is not threatening to koalas, developments that don't totally fragment the koala population and introduce threats, then they can achieve their housing targets without wiping out koalas.

Anti-coal and gas mining group Lock the Gate commissioned the report, written by Dr Ellis and fellow UQ ecological researcher Joanne Bussey.



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