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Investigation into the health and disease of the Woylie (Bettongia penicillata)

Skogvold, K., Warren, K.ORCID: 0000-0002-9328-2013, Vitali, S., Wayne, A., Holyoake, C. and Monaghan, C. (2013) Investigation into the health and disease of the Woylie (Bettongia penicillata). In: Wildlife Disease Association Australasian Section Annual Conference, 29 September - 4 October, Grampians, Vic, Australia.


The woylie or brush-tailed bettong (Bettongia penicillata) is critically endangered having suffered recent significant population declines in the wild. This project contributes to investigations aiming to determine if disease is a significant factor in woylie declines and lack of recovery.

Surveys, examinations and sampling have been conducted over two years in three varying population management systems: a wild population in SW Western Australia; a nearby insurance population in the free-range predator-proof Perup Sanctuary; and a captive insurance population previously at Perth Zoo. Studying the wild-caught Sanctuary population has allowed the investigations to focus on the role of disease in the absence of introduced predators.

Health testing has included haematology, biochemistry, and ecto and endoparasites, as well as more novel indicators of health such as anti-oxidant levels and the determination of stress levels using hair, faecal and serum glucocorticoids. The project with collaborators has validated the use of faecal glucocorticoids as a measure of stress for this species, and plans to also validate the use of hair. • Screening for significant marsupial pathogens includes toxoplasmosis and selected viruses including Herpes virus and Warrego & Wallal orbiviruses.

Complete testing of samples and full data analyses are pending with the aim being to reveal differences in health, disease and stress levels between the three populations, and in doing so, highlight significant health-related causal factors of woylie declines and lack of recovery in the wild. Findings could aid in the recovery and management of this critically endangered species, as well as other free-ranging and captive marsupial populations.

The presentation will focus on one research area of the project.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
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