A mahogany glider, a recent patient at UQ’s School of Veterinary Science
A mahogany glider, a recent patient at UQ’s School of Veterinary Science
19 January 2016

Experts are hoping to better protect Australian wildlife using increased data, with a one-year pilot project involving seven universities, including The University of Queensland.

UQ’s School of Veterinary Science’s Veterinary Medical Centre and Veterinary Laboratory Services will contribute data to the Wildlife Health Information System (eWHIS), managed by Wildlife Health Australia.

UQ veterinarian Dr Stephanie Shaw said staff would report on wildlife cases presented for treatment or diagnosis, adding data to the eWHIS database and making it easier to spot emerging issues or trends in wildlife health.

“UQ is well-positioned to contribute information on diseases we currently in wildlife, such as psittacine beak and feather disease, and unusual or emerging viral and fungal diseases such as sunshine virus and yellow fungus disease, or CANV,” Dr Shaw said.

UQ avian and exotic pet medicine specialist Associate Professor Bob Doneley said the two UQ departments saw almost 2000 wildlife cases a year.

“It is a great partnership to share knowledge and to be on the frontline in Australia’s wildlife disease surveillance,” he said.

Wildlife Health Australia CEO Dr Rupert Woods said universities saw many wildlife disease investigations annually, so the number of records going into eWHIS could increase by 50 per cent or more as a result of the project.

“Understanding the health status of Australia’s wildlife is an important step towards protecting them and the huge benefits they provide to the environment, agriculture, tourism, and people’s health and wellbeing,” he said.

Dr Woods said information drawn from the database helped Australia to deal with key threatening processes such as beak and feather disease in birds and chytrid fungus in frogs.

“It also provides important information to our policy and decision makers on managing potential risks of wildlife disease, such as diseases jumping from wildlife to people or domestic animals,” he said.

“The database assists in maintaining access to overseas markets for our agricultural products by helping to provide evidence of Australia’s freedom from particular diseases.

“It also provides useful information on human health issues such as Australian bat lyssavirus.”

Data is contributed to eWHIS by government agencies and departments, zoo wildlife hospitals, private veterinarians and national programs for detecting Australian bat lyssavirus and avian influenza.

Media: Dr Stephanie Shaw s.shaw@uq.edu.au, 0413 103 886; Associate Professor Bob Doneley, r.doneley@uq.edu.au, 07 54601 788; Dr Rupert Wood 02 9960 6333.

Image: UQ’s Dr Donna Spowart with a wallaby patient.