WIRES has announced a three-year grant to the Koala Health Hub (KHH) aUniversity of Sydney initiative to support koala care, management andresearch. The grant will sustain the KHH and allow it to respond to increasingneed for koala care and management following recent bushfires and droughts.

“WIRES fully support the critical work being undertaken by Koala Health Hub,”said WIRES CEO Leanne Taylor. “Thanks to the incredible financial support wereceived in response to Australia’s bushfires we are now in the position tofund this significant research initiative.”

“The plight of Australian native animals and in particular the koala is in thespotlight and we need to take action now and do whatever it takes to halt thedecline of their numbers in the wild,” she said.

The donation of $1,012,399 is the largest one-off living gift (ie, not abequest) made to the University’s School of Veterinary Science, where theKoala Health Hub sits. Donations to WIRES were made by both local andinternational donors including from the US, UK, Asia and Europe.

KHH benefits koala welfare and conservation by providing laboratory supportand evidence-based information to those at the coalface of care and managementof koalas, whether in the clinic or in the wild.

WIRES’ (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc)) fundingwill be used to help KHH provide diagnostic support, expertise andcoordination and communication to rehabilitation, university and governmentsectors. This includes funding a postdoctoral researcher and three PhDstudents, who will contribute to Australia’s pool of wildlife expertise andprovide ‘boots on the ground’ to answer key questions to assist koalamanagement.

Prior to the bushfires WIRES worked with KHH and the University’s wildlifeclinic at Camden to clinically assess koalas in care and as a referralresource for rescues needing rehabilitation.

According to Koala Health Hub Director, Associate Professor Damien Higginsthis grant honours the generous public donations to WIRES during the bushfiresby providing the means to better manage the recovery of surviving koalas, andto better prepare for future events.

“The Koala Health Hub was established in 2015 and WIRES has been a valuedcollaborator from the start. Their support now will make a really significantdifference to what we can achieve for koala care and conservation followingthe recent bushfires and drought. On top of the importance of health anddisease to individual welfare, it is a key part of the viability and recoveryof koala populations and their management. Koalas have long been underpressure from a range of threats and the recent bushfires have added to that”,said Associate Professor Higgins.

“To assess population recovery, and to safely plan, implement and evaluaterecovery actions we need to understand disease and other health issues. Ourfield and clinical research targets these issues but up till now has beenlimited by funding,” continued Higgins.

“The need for diagnostic support and disease expertise is greater than ever.Numbers of koalas in care is increasing due to drought, longer term impactsfrom fire, and the ongoing pressures of habitat loss. Population recovery willrequire sound evidence-based decisions across habitat management, captivebreeding and translocation, as well as coordination and capacity building inthe rescue and rehabilitation sector. In addition to supporting our ownresearch, the funding will further enable the great work being done by otherkoala care, research and government groups, so the benefits of this funding gofar beyond KHH.”

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