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Sci Rep. 2019 Nov 25;9(1):17494. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-53970-0.

A Necropsy Study of Disease and Comorbidity Trends in Morbidity and Mortality in the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) in South-East Queensland, Australia.

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School of Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland, Building, 8114, Gatton, Queensland, Australia.
California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, UC Davis, 105 W Central Ave, San Bernardino, CA, 92408, USA.
Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre, Department of Environment and Science, 55 Priors Pocket Rd, Moggill, Queensland, 4070, Australia.
Ipswich Koala Protection Society, Mt Forbes, Queensland, 4340, Australia.
School of Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland, Building, 8114, Gatton, Queensland, Australia.


Koalas are an iconic Australian marsupial undergoing precipitous population reduction in South-East Queensland from complex interacting threats. To investigate the causes of death and the interaction of comorbidities with demography in South-East Queensland koalas, a large scale, high-throughput prospective necropsy survey was conducted spanning 2013-2016. During this period, 519 necropsies were conducted in 155 young/subadult koalas, 235 mature, 119 old koalas and 10 of unknown age. Similar numbers of males and females were assessed. Trauma and infectious disease at were the most common single diagnoses. However, comorbidity was frequent, including multicentric infection or infectious disease in combination with trauma or senescence. Female koalas had proportionally more reproductive chlamydiosis compared to males in which the ocular and urinary systems were more commonly affected. Comorbidity and disease were strongly associated with poor body condition, and trauma was associated with good body condition. Animals affected by motor vehicle trauma were often in better body condition than those affected by animal attack, tree fall or other causes of trauma. This study identified a higher frequency of infections and comorbidity then previously reported, confirming the complex nature of interacting threats to the koala population.

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