The aim is to capture and vaccinate around 50 koalas in the northern region of NSW to prevent a sexually transmitted disease caused by chlamydia infection, which causes blindness, sterility and death in koalas.
Vaccination activities are conducted in NSW’s Northern Rivers region under a government-approved field programme.
Microbiologist Samuel Phillips from the University of the Sunshine Coast, speaking to the Associated Press (AP), reported that the infection causes a disease that prevents koalas from climbing trees, which are their feeding grounds, and escaping from wild animals, and causes infertility in females.
Philips, which also contributed to the development of a single-dose vaccine, explained that they vaccinated the koalas after the health check and kept them under observation for 24 hours in case of an unexpected side effect.
Philips noted that the vaccinated koalas were marked with pink paint and released back to nature.
The number of infected koalas increased
Mathew Crowther from the University of Sydney also stated in his statement that in 2008, only 10 percent of koalas in the said region of New South Wales had chlamydia infection, and now the number of infected koalas has reached 80 percent.
Vaccination efforts in other regions began in March, with more than 100 koalas being vaccinated at wildlife rescue centers.
Vaccination efforts in the Northern Rivers region of the state of NSW are expected to take 3 months.
Unlike humans, chlamydia in koalas cannot be treated with antibiotics because they have microbes in their stomachs that make antibiotics ineffective.
According to the New South Wales government’s 2020 report, koalas will be at risk of extinction in less than 30 years due to diseases thought to be caught by exposure to farm animal feces, as well as changes in their habitats and car accidents.
Koalas have been listed as endangered by the Australian government in the states of NSW and Queensland and the Capital Territory.
The government also announced at the beginning of 2022 that the country would spend $35 million over four years to protect the habitat of koalas and slow the decline of vulnerable species.