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Case Studies

National Wildlife Health Rounds (ARWH)

There are few qualified wildlife health investigators in Australia, and the vast distances between scientists means that there are few opportunities to bring these professionals together for collaborative diagnostic work, research or continuing education. National Wildlife Health Rounds sessions provide a unique opportunity to unite scientists nationally to improve the investigation of wildlife disease, particularly where disease potentially impacts threatened species recovery, biodiversity, agriculture or human health. The sessions are held over the internet, using Mass Collaboration Tools that allow each participant to view the case materials and enter into discussions on the case. The ARWH initiated and hosts these rounds on a monthly basis. The inaugural rounds session was very well attended by Agriculture Department, Environment Department, and zoo and RSPCA veterinarians, students, academic scientists, and policy makers. Enthusiasm and support for future sessions is growing rapidly.

Conservation of the Brushtail Rock Wallaby (Petrogale penicillata) at Jenolan Caves

As part of the recovery plan for this unique Australian species to enhance the dwindling populations in the wild, Taronga Wildlife Hospital staff have provided medical assistance to determine and manage the ongoing health of the population at Jenolan Caves.

Current Projects

Impact of Neosporosis on captive rhinoceros breeding potential

Infection with the protozoal organism Neospora caninum accounts for significant reproductive wastage in domestic cattle production. TWPZ reported the first foetal loss due to neosporosis in 2008. Current research in collaboration with our scientific partners is directed towards defining the level of exposure to this organism in captive rhinoceros held in Australasian zoos using a serological test that has been validated for these taxa. The potential role of the feral fox in the epidemiology of this disease at TWPZ is also being investigated.

Satellite telemetry of juvenile Australian loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta)

Tracking the “lost years”. Kimberly Vinette Herrin, Elizabeth Hall and George Balazs (US National Marine Fisheries Service).

Two juvenile Loggerhead Turtles rehabilitated through Taronga Wildlife Hospital were fitted with satellite tracking devices in a collaborative effort with US National Marine Fisheries Service and released off Lord Howe Island in January, 2010. This study will assess TWH release success and investigate juvenile Loggerhead pelagic ecology by tracking their dispersal in the South Pacific. To date, only one turtle has transmitted signals successfully and appears to be travelling around Lord Howe Island. Further trackers will be placed on rescued and rehabilitated turtles in the coming seasons.


Assessment of Reptile and Mammal Disease Prevalence on Christmas Island (ARWH)

There have been recent unexplained, dramatic declines in native species on Christmas Island, including the recent extinction of one of the island’s two native mammal species, the Christmas Island Pipistrelle Bat. The Australian Registry of Wildlife Health has just won a grant to lead a multidisciplinary team investigating whether these population declines could be caused by the emergence of either infectious disease or exposure to environmental toxins.

Greenhouse gas production by macropods

Macropods are credited with the production of relatively small quantities of  greenhouse gases compared to their domestic hoofstock counterparts. This assertion is based on very little scientific evidence. We are participating in a project with scientific collaborators that aims to quantify the greenhouse gas production of macropods.