The Joint Annual Scientific Meetings of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2018

A living koala genome bank (#150)

Stephen D Johnston 1 , Ken Beagley 2 , Jennifer Seddon 1 , Tamara Keeley 1 , Lyndal Hulse 1 , Bridie Schultz 1 , Al Mucci 3
  1. The University of Queensland, Gatton
  2. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane
  3. Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation, Coomera

Wild koala populations in Queensland are under increasing threat of local extinction, associated with habitat fragmentation and disease. We are proposing a novel innovative approach to koala conservation in SE Queensland that makes use of proven breeding technologies, in combination with in-depth analyses of current wild and captive Queensland koala population genetics and chlamydia proofing vaccination therapy to deliver a “living koala genome bank”. The bank will provide practical mechanisms by which koala researchers and managers will improve the genetic diversity of small fragmented populations, rescue genetic variation from animals that have to be euthanased or treated for disease in koala hospitals, and allow the propagation of additional disease-free koalas of high genetic merit for release back into the wild. This new paradigm takes advantage of redevelopment of Dreamworld’s wildlife precinct that will include construction and maintenance of research facility in which animals are housed off-exhibit in a dedicated koala breeding centre; this centre will also be used to facilitate the practical management and preservation of wild koala genetic variation into existing captive koala populations throughout Queensland, with pilot studies concentrated in the Gold Coast region. Reproductive health of the genome bank will be assured through the translation of recently developed chlamydia vaccine technology by our QUT partners. Our “big vision”, is for zoos, governments and universities to become joint custodians of wild koala genetics, to ensure not only the long-term conservation of koalas in the wild but also to ensure a sustainable tourism industry.