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The paradox of euthanizing koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) to save populations from elimination

David P. Wilson,1,5 Andrew P. Craig,1 Jon Hanger,2 and Peter Timms3,4


1 The Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, High St., Kensington, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia
2 Endeavour Veterinary Ecology Pty. Ltd., 1695 Pumicestone Road, Toorbul, Queensland 4510, Australia
3 University of the Sunshine Coast, Locked Bag 4, Maroochydore DC, Queensland 4558, Australia
4 Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, 60 Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove, Queensland 4059, Australia
5 Corresponding author (email: )

ABSTRACT
Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) populations in the wild are in sharp decline in Australia due to deforestation, road accidents, dog attacks, and disease from infection with sexually transmitted Chlamydia spp. Severely diseased koalas that are captured are euthanized for humane reasons because antibiotics are not effective. Paradoxically, we propose that euthanizing more koalas could help to increase koala population numbers. We investigated the potential impact of systematically euthanizing diseased koalas. Using data from a well-studied koala population, and an individual-based computer simulation model, we predict that such a program would result in a larger population of koalas after 7 yr than would exist without the program. If terminally diseased and sterile koalas are euthanized and other infected captured koalas are given antibiotics, chlamydial infection could be eliminated and population growth observed after 4 yr. The practical implementation of such a program would be facilitated with further development of tools to diagnose infection and internal disease in the field.

  • All
  • 2013
  • Biogeography
  • Biology
  • Chlamydia
  • Diet
  • Disease
  • Ecology
  • Ellis
  • Eucalyptus
  • Genetics
  • Habitat
  • Infection
  • Interventions
  • Koala
  • Lunney
  • Threats
  • Timms
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