'Loved up' koalas get a health check this Valentine's Day

14 February 2023

Valentine's Day' the day for lovers' was the perfect reminder to get those vital 'health checks' done – even for koalas.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are not only concerns for sexually active humans' but also for our loved-up koala populations in Central Queensland.

In fact' research is showing that the region's declining koala numbers could be linked to the high prevalence of three STDs – Chlamydia' koala retrovirus (similar to AIDS) and Herpes.

And it's been the 'love' of the koala that has brought CQUniversity PhD researcher Paige Bwye to Central Queensland to help solve the animal's growing health problems.

Ms Bwye arrived from England just five months ago to begin her research project into the health and wellbeing of Central Queensland koalas after spending 10 years as a Senior Zoo Keeper working with mammals in the UK.

"Love can have complications for koalas' just like humans'" Ms Bwye said.

"My research is looking at how three key sexually transmitted diseases' combined with other factors such as microbiota diversity and stress levels' are affecting the overall health status of koalas in Central Queensland.

"This is a really powerful project which can inform the status of the health of koalas in the region and shed light on the conservation needs of this species."


Ms Bwye joins established CQUniversity koala researchers Dr Flavia Santamaria and Dr Rolf Schlagloth in the search for solutions to the koala's health dilemmas through non-invasive research techniques.

The researchers are hoping to track down 200 koalas in the Central Queensland district for the study – no easy feat' but the researchers are confident they will achieve this goal with the help of the community and land holders.

"It's an ambitious total' but we are going to achieve it. We have a survey out which is for land owners to let us know of sightings.

"As this research involves non-invasive techniques' we are only interested in collecting koala faeces. The faeces is so important as it can tell us how healthy these koalas are.

"Koala poo can tell you a lot about koalas as it contains DNA' and using that DNA we can test for diseases' stress levels' and microbiome diversity in the gut as well."

As a former zoo keeper' Ms Bwye said she was no stranger to working with faeces.

"Actually' I am handling poo a lot less now than I did before' so I'm perfectly trained for poo handling."

This will be the first time such a comprehensive research study has been undertaken on the Central Queensland koalas.

The Central Queensland community is being encouraged to report koala sightings via this survey: https://cqu.syd1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_ebnel6LCfw1kqDI.

Ms Bwye has been awarded an Elevate Scholarship which has been funded by CQUniversity' Stanmore Resources and Earthtrade. The Fitzroy Basin Association is also an in-kind partner in this research project.