A lorikeet.

Lorikeets might get their wings back, thanks to University

29 January 2021
WIRES funding for native animals research
Two hundred thousand dollars from WIRES will help fund various projects, from determining where wombats cross dangerous roads, to exploring the causes of disease in lorikeets and possums.
A lorikeet

A rainbow lorikeet. Credit: David Clode via Unsplash.

Lorikeet paralysis syndrome and wombat road deaths are among the subjects of native animal research that will benefit from $200,000 worth of funding provided by the NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) to the University of Sydney.

Researchers at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science will use the funds to improve disease diagnosis, in a bid to ultimately improve long-term outcomes for these animals.

Lorikeet paralysis syndrome is a seasonal disease (October to June) that affects thousands of rainbow lorikeets each year in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. While many birds recover after hospital care, many also die.

A research team led by Professor David Phalen has found that a toxin – likely plant-derived – is the disease culprit. The results will be published in a forthcoming study, with the associated costs covered by WIRES.

Wombats, possums and more

A wombat.

Credit: Laura Barry via Unsplash.

Wombats will also be aided by the funds, which will support an investigation into the locations and the timing of their deaths on roads. Professor Phalen said: “This data will allow us to predict wombat movements during drought and following fire, and better understand their interactions with and movements on roads. In turn, WIRES or New South Wales National Parks can use this data to issue warnings to motorists about the risk of wombats crossing roads.”

Other WIRES-funded Sydney School of Veterinary Science projects include identifying the diseases with the greatest impact on wildlife in care, and with Taronga Conservation Society, investigating the causes of neurologic disease in lorikeets and ring-tailed possums.

“Wildlife carers often rescue animals suffering with diseases, and they rely on veterinarian advice to best treat [these] animals,” said WIRES CEO Leanne Taylor. “More research into wildlife diseases is greatly needed, particularly now with so many species moving to endangered status.”

Professor David Phalen with a koala.

Professor David Phalen. Credit: Koala Health Hub, Sydney School of Veterinary Science.

Professor Phalen and his team previously uncovered and prevented further poisoning in both eastern grey kangaroos (iron poisoning through feeding on limited vegetation) and barn owls (poisoning due to eating mice and rats that had consumed rodent bait).

Professor Phalen was also part of a committee organised by Wildlife Health Australia that helped develop evidence-based wildlife feeding guidelines for the public, following the 2019-20 bushfire season. 

Hero image credit: Dušan Veverkolog via Unsplash.

Loren Smith

Assistant Media Adviser (Humanities & Science)

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