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Health and disease status of Australia's most critically endangered mammal the Gilbert's potoroo (Potorous gilbertii)

Vaughan, RebeccaORCID: 0000-0001-7609-9818 (2008) Health and disease status of Australia's most critically endangered mammal the Gilbert's potoroo (Potorous gilbertii). PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The Gilbert's potoroo (Potorous gilbertii) is a small marsupial endemic to the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve in the south-west of Western Australia. The Gilbert's potoroo is classified as Australia's most critically endangered mammal (IUCN 2006) with an estimated population of only 35 individuals. This thesis examines the health and disease status of the Gilbert's potoroo, presenting a strong case for the relatively new concept of disease as a potential threatening factor and modifier of population decline.

Specific diseases, including Cryptococcus, ectoparasitism, endoparasitism, haemoparasitism, Toxoplasma and a novel Treponema organism are extensively studied. An assessment of the clinical significance of these diseases is made, and management strategies are recommended to minimise the impact of these diseases on both the wild and captive population.

The novel Treponema organism which clinically presents with tenacious, green discharge and an associated balanoposthitis in males is molecularly characterized. Epidemiological studies show the effects of this agent on reproductive function and a penicillin-based treatment regime is trialled in the analogous long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus) with a recommendation to then trial this treatment regime in the critically endangered Gilbert's potoroo.

Standard haematological and urinalysis findings are tabulated to form reference ranges for this species. A treatment regime for Cryptococcus in the analogous long-nosed potoroo is reported and parasitological findings, including the identification of a novel tick species are discussed.

This thesis addresses key health issues, which have subsequently been incorporated into the Recovery Plan of the Gilbert's potoroo. A document encompassing multiple disciplines and expertise to support the recovery of this critically endangered marsupial in its current environment. In addition, this thesis outlines a recommended health monitoring and treatment protocol for future translocation procedures and provides a working example of the emerging importance of health monitoring in threatened species recovery programs.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Supervisor(s): Warren, Kristin
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