Koala IVF could help save species from extinction

Good News Notes:

Freezing koala sperm could become a key part of a strategy to save koalas from extinction by 2050.

University of Newcastle scientists Lachlan Howell and Ryan Witt say koala “biobanking”, could be harnessed with IVF technology to help the endangered species reproduce.

An estimated 64,000 koalas were killed when 5.5m hectares were ravaged by the 2019-20 black summer bushfires in New South Wales.

The federal government listed the species as endangered in February and released a national plan to boost their numbers on the east coast.

“If the koala population dies in these kind of fire events, there is no way to bring them back or preserve their genetics,” Witt said.

The research published in the journal Animals on Wednesday found that biobanking would allow the storage of live koala genes by freezing sex cells such as sperm.

“The frozen sperm can then be used to impregnate female koalas in breed-for-release programs, using assisted reproductive technology,” the researchers said.

“We can cryopreserve koala sperm, just like we do for humans.”

They also noted the strategy would be five to 12 times cheaper than current captive koala breeding methods and would not compromise their genetic diversity.

The research comes days after the NSW environment minister, James Griffin, announced a record $200m for koala conservation to help double the state’s population of the endangered marsupial.

The lion’s share of the $193.3m will go to funding 47,000 hectares of koala habitat over the next five years to help existing populations.

Nearly $20m will go to helping local communities conserve koalas, while a further $23.2m will go to koala support programs including relocation and rehabilitation.

Australia has the highest rate of species extinction in the world, with the climate crisis expected to raise the risk of further annihilation.

Koala numbers have rapidly declined since 2012 when the species was listed as vulnerable to extinction….”

View the whole story here: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/apr/13/koala-ivf-could-help-save-species-from-extinction

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