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Gene Bank to Combat Koala Chlamydia

A genome bank for koalas is being established to increase the healthy genes within the threatened animal's population, Australian Geographic reports. Koalas' numbers are vulnerable because of a chlamydia epidemic, habitat loss, and because they are killed by cars and dogs.

The $1.8 million pilot project is a collaboration between the University of Queensland, the Queensland University of Technology, and Dreamworld, an Australian theme park. According to the Australian Geographic, the project is to collect sperm from dead or injured koalas brought to koala hospitals or the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and if chlamydia is found in the sperm, it will be treated. Later, wild female koalas will be inseminated at Dreamworld's captive-breeding research facility and released.

In this way, Australian Geographic says chlamydia will be eliminated from this koala population. "Chlamydia halts the reproductive cycle," Dreamworld's Al Mucci tells Australian Geographic. "It reduces fertility in both sexes. That means the population becomes dysfunctional and the whole koala eco-system is disrupted."

Some samples will be stored as a reservoir of healthy genes, it adds.