Initiated at the university’s Environmental Futures Centre (EFC), the two year research has developed non-invasive testing that measures the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in this vulnerable species. A rise in cortisol levels can be directly related to the levels of stress experienced in the koala.
The work has now entered a new phase at the Vertebrate Ecology lab at the EFC with koala dung currently being analysed for cortisol using a physiological tool called ELIZA.
“This tool can be efficiently implemented during the captive breeding of koalas and applied to better understand their physiological stress responses,” said
research leader Dr Edward Narayan.
“For example, we can clearly see how the koalas respond to the stress which can
be associated with being handled or bred in captivity. We can then apply this to the management of their husbandry conditions, handling, reproductive cycling and
“The findings of this research will ultimately enhance their breeding in captivity.
“The EFC has recently received a second round of funding from Dreamworld worth $10,000 and which will be used to support ongoing research on the stress physiology of koalas in captivity,” EFC Deputy Director Jean-Marc Hero said.
“The core of this current funding will be used to purchase laboratory equipment and support the daily running of our facility at the EFC. The research will provide a useful physiological tool for assessing stress in koalas entirely without harm.”
Already pioneers in this research methodology with previous successful studies in frogs and bilbies, the EFC is set to complete the koala work early next year.
Dreamworld Life Sciences General Manager Al Mucci said: “This research is
greatly welcomed by Dreamworld and assists us in continuing to improve our high
standards of animal management.”