Wildlife health and preservation

Improving disease treatment to help preserve wildlife
Our research uses advanced techniques, holistic and diverse disciplinary expertise and close engagement across diverse sectors to identify, understand and treat diseases in Australian wildlife, and guide wildlife conservation and welfare policy and practice.

Most of Australia’s wildlife species can't be found anywhere else in the world. In the face of rapid environmental change, their health is critical to their welfare and continued existence, and to the health and prosperity of the livestock and people that share their ecosystems.

Our diverse research and cross-sector engagement underpins wildlife management policy and action that ranges from clinical interventions to targeted population and ecosystem management.

Research areas

Key Researchers: Damien Higgins, Mark Krockenberger, David Phalen, Luisa Miranda, Valentina Mella, Belinda Wright, Andrea Casteriano.  

Integrating pathobiology, genomics, and disease and behavioural ecology, our research ranges from foundational to applied. The methods and knowledge we develop improve outcomes for koalas in care and inform policy and planning for management of koalas endangered in the wild.

A major focus is understanding drivers of diseases and their management in the context of the many threats facing koalas.

Our research is guided and achieves real-life impact through close cross-sector engagement with government, other universities, and the koala rehabilitation community.

Key researchers: Rachael Gray

Current research includes treatment trials to mitigate hookworm disease in Australian sea lions, monitoring of health status and disease in free-ranging pinnipeds (including Toxoplasma gondii, Coxiella spp., evaluation of anthropogenic noise on declining Australian fur seal populations.

In addition to the investigation of the role of anthropogenic toxicants including heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (PCBS, dioxins and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances -PFAS) on the health and disease status of Australian pinnipeds.

Key Researchers: Merran Govendir, Benjamin Kimble

Wildlife species can be subjected to trauma (such as being hit by cars or caught in bushfires) and can be affected by diseases.

Many injured and diseased animals are taken to wildlife hospitals for treatments and are administered analgesics and antibiotics to support their recovery.

Considering the unique physiology of each species, the veterinary pharmacology unit at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science undertakes research to find the best medicines, and optimises the dosage, to improve the chances of survival of many wildlife species.   

Key Researchers: David Phalen, Jan Slapeta, Damien HigginsMark Krockenberger

A few diseases of iconic species, such as the Tasmanian devil, are well known. However, there is a growing number of diseases of unknown cause appearing in other, less iconic species, with potential to impact biodiversity or human and livestock health.

We use a combination of advanced DNA sequencing, pathology and surveillance techniques to resolve these diseases, assess their significance to these and other species, and determine their underlying drivers.

Key Researchers: Jacqueline Norris, David Phalen, Richard Malik, Mary Thompson

Australian zoos are a key player in the conservation of endangered felids (lions and tigers) globally such as the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger.

Investigation of key infectious and non-infectious diseases such as renal disease, osteoarthritis, lentiviruses are a focus of our research in collaboration with colleagues at zoos across Australia.

We have validated and standardised diagnostic tests suitable for non-domestic felids and used these tools to investigate critical diseases affecting these populations to inform treatment, management and prevention.