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Safeguarding koalas from STD

by Dan Westell, CBCNews.ca

Koalas are a contender for the cutest animal in the world. The small, iconic Australian mammal (average under 10 kilograms) lives on eucalyptus leaves and looks like an ewok, the furry heroes of the Star Wars episode Return of the Jedi.

But, sadly, they are prone to chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease, and it appears to be spreading.

"As much as 40 to 50 per cent of koalas coming into care in both Queensland and NSW [New South Wales] are showing clinical signs of the disease and it seems to be getting worse," said Prof. Peter Timms from Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.

Chlamydia can cause serious side effects, including blindness, pneumonia and female infertility. That is especially problematic, because the koala population is already under pressure due to the shrinking of eucalyptus forests in Australia, their source of food.

Timms and colleagues are ready to test a chlamydia vaccine for koalas, based on work with human vaccines. The test, set to begin this year, will study the immune response, and if that's positive, the researchers will try to determine if the response can protect the bears from the disease.

The researchers need more money to continue their studies. "We are looking for corporate or individual support to fund further research in this area," Timms said.

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Comments

Carolyn

Ack! That's AWFUL! I really hope they manage to help the little critters!

Posted July 17, 2007 10:21 AM

Max

Ontario

Poor little guys... I'm ashamed at myself for laughing at the title... (only a little though)

Posted July 18, 2007 03:22 AM

Claudio

Ontario

Yeah, I couldn't help but chuckle when I began reading the article, but this really is a serious threat to the little critters. Half the population? Thats terrible...I hope the vaccine works for them.

Posted July 18, 2007 08:09 AM

Charles

Ontario

I thought this was going to be an extremely odd promotion of how to conduct safer beastiality practises with koalas, in which case I was going to read out of morbid fascination...

...the result is less funny.

That's a nasty std for those things to have; let's hope it can be taken care of with as little suffering as possible.

Posted July 18, 2007 08:41 AM

Monkey

Winnipeg

I'm still laughing... damn horny Koalas!

Posted July 18, 2007 12:10 PM

TC

Wheatley

Koala's are not bears. Say Koala 'Bear' to an Aussie and they'll be quick to correct you. Maybe the Durex condom tester from Melbourne and the vets should get together.

Posted July 20, 2007 10:59 AM

Garet

Winnipeg

Not as bad as calling an Aussie a Limey or Kiwi.

Posted July 20, 2007 11:38 AM

Charles

Ontario

Panda aren't bears either; they're giant rodents. It doesn't change the fact that people have been calling Koalas and Pandas "bears" for a very, very long time. I suppose it makes them more apealing to children. If you told your son or daughter the Panda Bear doll they were hugging was actually a Panda Rodent, I doubt they'd be impressed.

No offense to rodents; they're great too.

Anywho, calling a Koala a "Koala Bear" isn't the end of the world.

What's at stake now is how to help the little critters so they don't have to suffer from an STD... which is damned depressing.

PS: My niece calls me Charlie Bear. Does that mean I'm a bear?

Posted July 20, 2007 12:43 PM

Monkey

Winnipeg

For some reason I wouldn't be surprised if they were more offended by the Koala Bear comment.

Posted July 20, 2007 12:52 PM

Carolyn

Henceforth, Charles is Charlie Bear.

Posted July 20, 2007 02:04 PM

Steve

Edmonton

I think the first step is helping the Koalas get over the stigma associated with STD's

Posted July 20, 2007 04:20 PM

Monkey

Winnipeg

I agree with both Carolyn and Steve, although I'd like to hear a little bit more of what Steve's idea consists.

Posted July 23, 2007 12:28 PM

Troy

Kelowna

This is entirely natural. The Koala over-population problem in Australia is extreme, so much so that the eucalyptic trees are dying out. The Koala's are creating their own problem because of how many of them there are. That is what happens naturally when a species is over-populated. Disease and famine takes care of them, until their numbers are reduced to natural numbers.

People take on this sympathy to Koalas because they are cute.

That's why Australia has had problems implementing a cull - something that is necessary for the long-term health of the species a.k.a.-they'll die anyway, either from the cull or a disease as we are seeing.

Posted July 25, 2007 03:00 PM

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