Faecal transplants in Cape Otway koalas have successfully expanded the marsupials’ diet, providing a potential solution to habitat loss.
Dr Michaela Blyton and her colleagues published research on Wednesday which details an eight-month field trial exploring whether a faecal transplant could influence the species of eucalypt that koalas could feed on.
The research was in conjunction with the Conservation Ecology Centre, which has historically worked to manage the defoliation of Cape Otway’s manna gum forest by koala over-population.
Dr Blyton said the research concluded that creating tablets from the faecal matter of messmate-eating koalas and giving them to the manna gum-eating koalas could change the microbiomes in koalas’ stomachs, allowing the animals to eat messmate leaves.
“In 2013 the (Cape Otway) koala population reached very high densities, leading them to defoliate their preferred food tree species, manna gum,” she said.
“This led to 70-per-cent mortality due to starvation, which was very distressing.
“What was interesting was that even though the koalas were starving, they generally didn’t start feeding on a less preferred tree species, messmate.
See today’s Colac Herald for more.