Millions of dollars to help save SEQ koalas

18 Jan 2024
Koala chewing on a leaf in a tree
Image: Adobe

Over the next five years, the Koala Research Foundation Australia will be bolstering University of Queensland research efforts, raising funds to save South-East-Queensland’s critically endangered koalas.

Approximately $5 million is to be spread between UQ, QUT and Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, and will support a new initiative called the Koala Health and Rehabilitation Collaborative, leading work in breeding, genetics, microbiome and vaccine projects.

Associate Professor Steve Johnston, from UQ’s School of the Environment, said the scale of the project – and its broad range of interventions – will have real impacts on koala populations, particularly in the Gold Coast region.

“We’re tackling South-East Queensland’s declining koala population problem from almost every possible angle,” Dr Johnston said.

“This funding allows our team to work on new ways to reintroduce koalas proactively back into the wild, leading to growth in populations, rather than defensively managing their decline.

“These animals will be generated in captivity, where we’ll closely analyse their genetics, and then they’ll be released as vaccinated animals back into Gold Coast populations.

“We’ll also now be able to establish techniques for rescuing sperm and ova from dead, traumatised and diseased animals.

“Rescued cells can then be used with our established assisted breeding technology to produce live offspring and create a frozen cryobank for the species.”

The project will also involve further research and roll-out of the QUT-developed Chlamydia vaccine and will build on UQ and QUT’s efforts developing the Living Koala Genome Bank, a zoo-based gene bank that captures genetic variation and helps restore population connectivity.

All-in-all, the six-year project is expected to have meaningful, lasting impact on koala species health and, specifically, reproductive health.

The initiative will also foster the rising research talent so vital to ensuring the progression of koala reproductive health knowledge and expertise.

“Through this program we’ll be able to appoint young post-doctoral koala researchers with a growing track record of success,” Dr Johnston said.

“These rising star researchers will carry this fight forward, having learned under the expert tutelage of world-leading experts in the field.

“It’s critically important to have the best of the best working to save our iconic koalas, so we’re thrilled to have the resources to do just that.

“Thank you to the Koala Research Foundation Australia, their generous donors and our great research partners – together we hope to see koalas thriving in Queensland’s South-East corner, and across the country, for generations to come.”

To further support UQ conservation research, please visit the Faculty of Science donation page.

Media: UQ Faculty of Science Media,, +61 438 162 687.