Research, Connect, Protect




Analysis and Conservation Implications of Koala Genetics


*School of Biological Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia, email
†School of Life Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, George Street, Brisbane, QLD 7000, Australia
‡Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria, PO Box 20, Mosman, Sydney, NSW 2088, Australia
§Zoological Parks Board of New South Wales, PO Box 20, Mosman, Sydney, NSW 2088, Australia



Koalas are the only living member of their family and therefore deserve serious conservation consideration. Koalas have low levels of genetic variation within and among populations in the southern part of
their range, where they have experienced many relocations and population crashes since European colonization of Australia. The importance of this change in variation is underlined by preliminary indications that
levels of genetic variation may affect fitness in koalas. Techniques have been developed to help identify and
monitor genetic problems in koalas and to provide the information and tools to make genetic management
an integral part of koala conservation. The koala is currently at an appropriate point for conservation intervention: there is clear evidence of decline in some populations, but the existence of other robust populations
offers the possibility of a variety of creative solutions to their conservation problems. Managers should aim to
maintain this species’ current ecological amplitude (the range of environments in which populations are
found) and minimize the loss, fragmentation, or decline of populations. There are no data to suggest that
any population requires genetic supplementation. The concepts of evolutionarily significant unit (ESU) and
management unit (MU) can be useful in the genetic management of koalas, including monitoring and management regimes. But ESUs and MUs can also be misleading if they are not interpreted carefully in terms of
population history and the ultimate goal of management. Translocations should not involve extensive use of
stock from a single source, especially those with low genetic variation, and they require careful management
to avoid possible problems when individuals encounter novel strains of the pathogen Chlamydia pecorum, because several genetically distinct strains have been found in koalas, some of which may derive from introduced species. Genetic indicators can and must make considerable contributions to koala management, but
they require careful interpretation.

  • All
  • 2013
  • Biogeography
  • Biology
  • Chlamydia
  • Diet
  • Disease
  • Ecology
  • Ellis
  • Eucalyptus
  • Genetics
  • Habitat
  • Infection
  • Interventions
  • Koala
  • Lunney
  • Threats
  • Timms
load more hold SHIFT key to load all load all