Koala extinct: “It’s time to do everything possible to save it”, scientists cry

The megafires that devastated Australia’s wildlife during the so-called ‘black summer’ of 2019-20 severely jeopardized the survival of the island’s iconic species, the koala.Phascolarctos cinereus). A later study revealed that: The devastating fires had killed more than 5,000 koalas in the state of New South Wales alone.this led them to declare ‘in danger of extinction‘, after a request from the country’s conservation groups denouncing them decline due to habitat destruction, climate change and drought.

HE IS ecological disaster prompted researchers to intensify captive breeding of various species, primarily koalas. But there are two serious problems. first, that It is very expensive to raise koalas in captivity and it is often difficult to obtain financing for breeding facilities. Second, that Maintaining genetic diversity is not easy due to inbreeding.

To face these challenges, a group of scientists conducted a study published in the scientific journal publisher ‘MDPI’. resort to frozen semen and assisted reproduction. “It’s time to do everything possible save koala from extinction”, claim the researchers.

“Managed (captive) wildlife breeding faces high economic costs and genetic diversity challenges associated with maintaining small captive populations.

This biobanks (freezing of sex cells and tissues for use in assisted reproduction) and related reproductive technologies can help alleviate these problems in captive koala management by improving the conservation of genetic diversity and reducing program costs. reduce the size of viable captive colonies” gathers the summary of the report.

The aim is to reduce inbreeding.

“Genetic and economic models examining koala populations in captivity, Supplementing them with cryopreserved external sperm by artificial insemination or intracytoplasmic sperm injection can significantly reduce inbreeding.”, note researchers.

A member of the emergency team gives a drink to a koala affected by the ‘black summer’ fires. AP / Mark Parden


idea integrate biobanks into the network of zoos and wildlife hospitalsThis will provide “a profitable and financially viable model for the adoption of these tools, drawing on technical and research experience, koala colonies in captivity, and ex situ facilities that already exist in these networks.”

External semen input will help reduce colony sizes required for conservation breeding programs, thereby greatly reducing program costs.

Despite genetic retention goals are ambitiousThe text says it will be possible to achieve these “with koalas fit for release into the wild, within realistic cost frameworks,” maintaining 90% of the source population’s heterozygosity (genetic variation) for 100 years.

Although these reproductive tools have not been used much for the conservation of the species, extreme danger situation for koalas scientists”discover your full potential”.

Researchers in the study compared traditional natural breeding programs with programs that mix them with frozen koala semen obtained from wild animals via artificial insemination or direct sperm injection.

Scientists discovered that Supplementing captive breeding with frozen sperm from wild animals “significantly reduces mating rates within families, produces genetically healthier animals and requires fewer animals in breeding colonies”As detailed by the authors of the study in the ‘Conversation’ section.

much smaller colonies

They also reveal that To achieve the genetic target of 90% heterozygosity, 223 koalas would be needed in a conventional captive program, but with the aid of assisted breeding, only 17 koalas were required.. Because the colony is much smaller, the cost reduction will be huge. Special, these techniques will result in a one-fifth reduction in the costs of running captive breeding programs.even taking into account the costs of assisted reproduction, sperm freezing and artificial insemination or sperm injection.

Rescue of a koala from a bushfire in Australia in January 2020. Reuters


“While these technologies have proven their worth to us and to animals, we haven’t used them largely to improve wildlife. It’s a missed opportunity to reduce costs and increase genetic diversity,” the authors emphasize. few programs adopting these techniques have been successful.

Scientists are encouraging further research and technology development in areas such as the use of frozen sperm, embryo transfer or sperm cryopreservation. And they point to a number of “new possibilities” for koala conservation:

Using genetic material from dead or sick koalas otherwise it would be lost.

– Conservation of gene pools of koala populations Genetically important species are in danger of extinction.

– Protect species against catastrophic events related to climate change, disease and forest fires, which can cause great genetic losses in nature.

– Reduce inbreeding in captive breeding programs and breed koalas that are genetically suitable for release.

– Overcoming the problems of segregated populations and ensuring that desired breeding pairs can actually reproduce.

– Address migration issues Risk of disease transmission due to different diets of koalas in all regions.

koala a very sensitive marsupial and especially sensitive to any changes in the environmentit spends about 20 hours a day napping or resting, and the remaining four hours are used to feed on the leaves of several dozen eucalyptus species.

Reference report: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/12/8/990/htm

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Environment department contact address:crisclimatica@prensaiberica.es

Source: Informacion

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