Research on koalas, sustainable pet products and more
The Australian correspondent for dvm360 reports on veterinary conservationists working to improve the health of koalas and a vet who is driving change by rethinking and rethinking everyday pet products.
Koala research uses innovative ground tracking
In February 2022, the government improved the koala from vulnerable to endangered species, due to habitat loss, disease and the impact of bushfires. In 2020, a parliamentary report in Koala Populations and Habitat in New South Wales said that without urgent action to address all threats, including marsupial habitats, the koala will be extinct from the state by 2050.
Endeavor Veterinary Ecology (EVE), based in Queensland, is a consultancy specializing in the management of wildlife, particularly koalas. His team is working to improve field tracking and monitoring devices to monitor the health of koala populations and is also researching vaccines to prevent chlamydia, one of the most common illnesses among these marsupials.
“EVE collaborated with LX to design, build, and deploy a solar-powered GPS tracking device called K-Tracker. This tracker sits around the koala’s neck on a breakable collar that sends updates to the cloud at regular intervals, reporting the location of the koalas and their activity,” explained EVE vet Julien Grosmaire.
“It informs us of the exact location of each koala, including whether they are in danger zones, as determined by geolocation, and records a history of their past locations. It also informs us of individuals who interact as well as during periods of low activity, prompting our team in the field to check whether the individual has any problems, such as poor health or [even] the death.”
The K-Tracker developed by LX for EVE won an Australian Good Design Award (product design) in 2021, in recognition of its accurate reporting, robust design and ultra-low power consumption.
“We are constantly looking for ways to improve our K-Tracker collars [in terms of] search and monitoring capabilities as well as comfort for koalas. The data we collect is used to inform the management and health status of [the] various koala populations that we manage,” Grosmaire said. dvm360®.
The EVE team is also working on testing several koala chlamydia vaccines. Chlamydia is a real welfare issue in some koala populations, causing pain, sterility and disbelief.
“Many years of research have gone into developing these vaccines, and an effective vaccine would be a real game-changer. Our work enables large-scale controlled trials to be conducted, which will better inform us about the effectiveness of the vaccine.
“Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assays are currently the standard for detection of Chlamydia infection in koalas. We, along with research collaborators, let’s look at ways to make these tests easier and faster,” Grosmaire said.
Sustainable pet products that also help wildlife
Having seen more than enough wild animals with preventable morbidities caused by plastics and pollution, veterinarian Stephanie Stubbe decided to help end it and founded animala company that recycles post-consumer plastic bottles into pet products and supports endangered species in the process.
Stubbe grew up on a farm in rural New South Wales and worked for an AgTech accelerator during his veterinary studies. After graduating, she worked for RSPCA-Victoriaand in addition to clinical work, she created Anipal to help the veterinary industry drive lasting change.
“Anipal…rethinking[s] and redesign[s] the everyday things we use in the veterinary and pet industry from a sustainable, functional and science-based perspective, to ensure we have a light environmental footprint,” Stubbe said. “The proceeds from our sales go to coordinate and support endangered species projects, ensuring that we also help on the ground.”
Stubbe’s time working at the RSPCA, where she treated animals suffering from car accidents, litter and a myriad of pollutants, reinforced her drive to make a positive difference for wildlife.
“This experience got me thinking about how the veterinary and companion animal industry could contribute to lasting, preventative change…Without a doubt, the skills…we practice daily as veterinarians parallel clinics [with] what is required in business,” Stubbe explained.
“At the clinic, we make treatment decisions by reconstructing the history and clinical signs. In business, the same approach to problem solving is required. By asking questions, doing research, and developing an action plan, business ideas can be tried and tested. Also, as a veterinarian, you need to keep an open mind and keep learning and developing. the same traits are needed to grow an evolving business.
Anipal recently launched a line of functional carbon-positive treats that target specific conditions for pets, including allergies, anxiety and arthritis. The company also supports various projects to help endangered species.
“We incorporate unique complete proteins [into the treats] and have created the only dental chews that provide additional functional and health support. We have also just launched our line of recycled feline tethers, the only sustainable offering on the market, which supports and celebrates our endangered species and raises awareness about benchmark feline breeding and wildlife management,” said Stubbe.
“Our own endangered species projects are ongoing. We have built nest boxes to provide breeding and habitat opportunities for sugar gliders, gliding squirrels and barn owls. We have also partnered with RSPCA Victoria to support their wildlife unit and WWF-Australia to help support their Regenerate Australia program.”