When picturing a koala, one thinks of a cute and
cuddly animal, one that causes no harm to anyone. Sadly, the koala, “one of Australia’s
most treasured creatures”, faces trouble from climate change, environment and
habitat loss as well as a new and concerning factor, bacterial disease. These harmless cute creatures are being forced into smaller and smaller habitats and regions of Australia seriously
endangering their health and presence on earth. Is there anything we can do to prevent this
disease from killing off koalas?
Surprisingly, the disease harming koalas is chlamydia, known to humans as a venereal, yet curable disease, and one that is detrimental to the life of a koala. Chlamydia is known to have already affected the lives of at least 50 percent of the Koalas in Queensland, Australia, yet probably many more. One may ask how a disease curable in humans could be causing such devastation to the koalas. One must understand that the bacteria strains transmitted through mating, birth or fighting are known as Chlamydia pecorum and pneumonia are different than the bacterial strains which effect humans. The symptoms of these strains can cause eye infections or blindness which greatly hinders their ability to find food and protect themselves, the
bacteria can also cause respiratory and cyst issues where in some cases the koalas
may become infertile greatly heightening the chance of endangerment. What sets
this form of chlamydia apart from what humans’ contract is the fact that it is
paired with another disease. A second disease known as the koala retrovirus is said to be carried by almost all of the koala’s in Queensland, greatly hindering their immune not allowing them to
properly fight off chlamydia. Although there is not a cure for the retrovirus, researchers have been formulating a vaccine that has been successful and is safe for the koalas. This vaccine could
be the answer to cure this disease that when paired with the retrovirus turns deadly. Although difficult to distribute as it seems impossible to distribute it to every koala, the researchers believe this vaccine to save the koalas.
Koalas are the beloved creatures of Australia yet it does not seem as if there is a lot of effort being put in to eliminate this disease from all koalas’s to prevent spread. We should work to further the research of the vaccine to finally end this disease. However, should there actually be an increased effort to save the koalas? The concern comes not only for their safety, but because of the fear that this disease could be transmitted to other species. Should we be worried that this disease
could lead to an epidemic?
Tara Reynolds (3)