Australian Wildlife Health Center

Healesville, Australia

Australian Wildlife Health Center

Healesville, Australia
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Franciscus Scheelings T.,Australian Wildlife Health Center | Rafferty A.R.,Monash University
Journal of Wildlife Diseases | Year: 2012

Hematologic and serum biochemical analyses were performed on 30 wild-caught, gravid, Australian freshwater chelonians. Species sampled were western long-necked turtles (Chelodina oblonga; n=13), common long-necked turtles (Chelodina longicollis; n=8), and Murray River turtles (Emydura macquarii; n=9). Turtles were obtained from Lake Goolellal in Perth, Western Australia (C. oblonga), and Lake Coranderrk in Healesville, Victoria (C. longicollis and E. macquarii). All turtles were considered healthy at the time of sample collection. Blood results were similar to those reported in other freshwater chelonians, with the exception of elevated calcium levels in all species. Hypercalcemia was attributed to egg development and maturation. A hemoparasite morphologically resembling Haemogregarina clelandi was found in all C. oblonga samples and in four C. longicollis samples. Infection with H. clelandi appeared to have no physiological effects on blood parameters or morphometrics of infected turtles. Blood parameters were also considered poor indicators of female chelonian morphometrics and fecundity. © Wildlife Disease Association 2012.


Rafferty A.R.,Monash University | Evans R.G.,Monash University | Franciscus Scheelings T.,Australian Wildlife Health Center | Reina R.D.,Monash University
American Naturalist | Year: 2013

Although viviparity (live birth) has evolved from oviparity (egg laying) at least 140 times in vertebrates, nearly 120 of these independent events occurred within a single reptile taxon. Surprisingly, only squamate reptiles (lizards and snakes) are capable of facilitating embryonic development to increasingly advanced stages inside the mother during extended periods of oviducal egg retention. Viviparity has never evolved in turtle lineages, presumably because embryos enter and remain in an arrested state until after eggs are laid, regardless of the duration of egg retention. Until now, the limiting factor that initiates and maintains developmental arrest has remained elusive. Here, we show that oviducal hypoxia arrests embryonic development. We demonstrate that hypoxia can maintain developmental arrest after oviposition and that subsequent exposure of arrested embryos to normoxia triggers resumption of their development. We discovered remarkably low oxygen partial pressure in the oviducts of gravid turtles and found that secretions produced by the oviduct retard oxygen diffusion. Our results suggest that an extremely hypoxic environment in the oviduct arrests embryonic development and may constrain the evolution of viviparity in turtles, with the reduced diffusive capacity of oviducal secretions possibly creating or contributing to this hypoxia. We anticipate that these findings will allow us to better understand the mechanisms underlying the evolutionary transition between reproductive modes. © 2013 by The University of Chicago.


Scheelings T.F.,Australian Wildlife Health Center | Frith S.E.,Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

To determine the reasons for presentation and outcomes of hospitalised grey-headed flying foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) in Victoria, Australia, a retrospective analysis was performed on 532 records from two wildlife hospitals. Cases were categorised based on presenting signs and outcomes determined. Anthropogenic factors (63.7%) were a major cause of flying fox admissions with entanglement in fruit netting the most significant risk for bats (36.8%). Overall the mortality rate for flying fox admissions was 59.3%. This study highlights the effects of urbanisation on wild animal populations and a need for continued public education in order to reduce morbidity and mortality of wildlife, especially threatened species. © 2015 Scheelings, Frith. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Scheelings T.F.,University of Melbourne | Scheelings T.F.,Australian Wildlife Health Center | Lightfoot D.,Health Diagnostic Laboratory | Holz P.,Australian Wildlife Health Center
Journal of Wildlife Diseases | Year: 2011

From January 2007 until June 2008, 504 reptiles of four families and 57 species were examined for Salmonella by using cloacal or intestinal swabs. Salmonella was identified in 139 (28%) of the 504 animals tested. Of the 504 reptiles examined, 210 were captive and 294 were wild. Ninety-eight (47%) of the captive reptiles were shedding Salmonella at the time of sampling. In contrast, only 41 (14%) of the wild reptiles were shedding Salmonella. The higher prevalence of Salmonella in captive reptiles was statistically significant (P<0.0001). No Salmonella was found in 60 wild, freshwater chelonians or 48 wild southern water skinks (Eulamprus heatwolei). Our results suggest that some species of wild reptiles in Australia are not natural carriers of Salmonella and that diet and captivity may influence Salmonella excretion in other species. © Wildlife Disease Association 2011.


Scheelings T.F.,Australian Wildlife Health Center | Haynes L.,Australian Wildlife Health Center | Haynes L.,University of Melbourne
Australian Veterinary Journal | Year: 2012

Background Elevated concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)-D) were diagnosed in captive short-beaked echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus) from three different zoological facilities within Australia. Results The mean serum 25(OH)-D concentration in the wild echidnas was 24.7 nmol/L and was significantly higher in captive echidnas from all three facilities: Facility 1, mean 335.5 nmol/L (P < 0.001); Facility 2, mean 187.2 nmol/L (P = 0.003); Facility 3, mean 194 nmol/L (P = 0.005). Animals did not appear to have clinical manifestations of vitamin D toxicosis. The increased serum 25(OH)-D concentration was attributed to excessive dietary intake and a reduction in the amount of vitamin D3 in the diet of echidnas from Facility 1 resulted in a marked decrease in the serum 25(OH)-D concentrations (mean 33 nmol/L). The reduction in serum 25(OH)-D concentration was statistically significant (P = 0.002) and the resulting concentrations were similar to those of wild echidnas (P = 0.212). Conclusion It is not known what effect an elevated serum 25(OH)-D concentration has on echidnas. © 2012 Australian Veterinary Association.


Scheelings T.F.,Australian Wildlife Health Center | Dobson E.C.,Gribbles Pathology | Hooper C.,Gribbles Pathology
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine | Year: 2014

Two captive adult female Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) were investigated for pruritis and dermatitis. In both cases skin lesions consisted of multifocal, superficial patches of crusting, hyperkeratosis, and ulceration. Lesions started on the ventral surfaces of the animal but then appeared on the dorsum as the disease progressed. In both animals, a diagnosis of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma was made based on histologic appearance of skin biopsies using immunohistochemistry. Attempt at treatment with lomustine 20 mg p.o. once every 3 wk in one individual did not slow progression of the condition. As a result of their propensity for developing neoplastic conditions, the use of chemotherapeutic agents in Tasmanian devils warrants further investigation. © 2014 by American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.


Scheelings T.F.,Australian Wildlife Health Center | Scheelings T.F.,University of Melbourne | Jessop T.S.,Melbourne Zoo | Jessop T.S.,University of Melbourne
Australian Veterinary Journal | Year: 2011

Objective The aims of this study were to determine baseline reference intervals for haematological and serum biochemical parameters in lace monitors, and to examine whether such values were influenced by capture method, expected differences in habitat food resource availability and a lizard's body size and body condition. Methods Thirty-three wild Victorian lace monitors (Varanus varius) of unknown age and sex were captured by noose pole or aluminium box trap from Cape Conran in East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. Results No statistical differences between the two capture methods were noted for haematology. There was a significant difference in the serum glucose concentrations between the two methods of capture (higher concentration in box-trapped animals) because of a physiological response to capture stress. Habitat food quality did not appear to influence haematology or serum biochemistry. The packed cell volume (PCV) for the lace monitors was 0.29-0.43L/L. Lymphocytes were identified as the most common leucocyte. The haemoprotozoan parasite, Haemogregarinavaranicola, was found in all 33 blood samples. No correlation could be made between parasite burden and PCV, serum globulins or serum proteins, but animals in poor body condition were more likely to harbour large numbers of parasites. Conclusion The results of this study may be used as a basis for evaluating health in lace monitors. © 2011 The Authors. Australian Veterinary Journal © 2011 Australian Veterinary Association.


Scheelings T.F.,Australian Wildlife Health Center
Journal of Wildlife Diseases | Year: 2015

Medical records of 931 reptiles admitted to the Australian Wildlife Health Centre, Healesville Sanctuary, Healesville, Victoria, Australia, from 2000 to 2013 were reviewed to determine the causes of morbidity and mortality. Thirty-nine species were presented; the most common were the common long-neck turtle (Chelodina longicollis; n5311, 33.4%), the eastern bluetongue lizard (Tiliqua scincoides; n5224, 4.1%), the blotched bluetongue lizard (Tiliqua nigrolutea; n5136, 14.6%), and the lowland copperhead (Austrelaps superbus; n555, 5.9%). Trauma was the most significant reason for admissions, accounting for 73.0% of cases. This was followed by not injured (11.7%), displacement (6.4%), snake removal (4.2%), human interference (3.1%), introduced species (1.1%), sick/diseased (0.2%), and illegal pet (0.2%). Within the category of trauma, impact with motor vehicle (41.0% of trauma cases) and domestic animal attack (33.2% of trauma cases) were the most common subcategories. Our results indicate that indirect anthropogenic factors are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in Australian reptiles. © Wildlife Disease Association 2015.


Jessop T.S.,University of Melbourne | Smissen P.,University of Melbourne | Scheelings F.,Australian Wildlife Health Center | Dempster T.,University of Melbourne
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Humans are increasingly subsidizing and altering natural food webs via changes to nutrient cycling and productivity. Where human trophic subsidies are concentrated and persistent within natural environments, their consumption could have complex consequences for wild animals through altering habitat preferences, phenotypes and fitness attributes that influence population dynamics. Human trophic subsidies conceptually create both costs and benefits for animals that receive increased calorific and altered nutritional inputs. Here, we evaluated the effects of a common terrestrial human trophic subsidies, human food refuse, on population and phenotypic (comprising morphological and physiological health indices) parameters of a large predatory lizard (~2 m length), the lace monitor (Varanus varius), in southern Australia by comparison with individuals not receiving human trophic subsidies. At human trophic subsidies sites, lizards were significantly more abundant and their sex ratio highly male biased compared to control sites in natural forest. Human trophic subsidies recipient lizards were significantly longer, heavier and in much greater body condition. Blood parasites were significantly lower in human trophic subsidies lizards. Collectively, our results imply that human trophic subsidized sites were especially attractive to adult male lace monitors and had large phenotypic effects. However, we cannot rule out that the male-biased aggregations of large monitors at human trophic subsidized sites could lead to reductions in reproductive fitness, through mate competition and offspring survival, and through greater exposure of eggs and juveniles to predation. These possibilities could have negative population consequences. Aggregations of these large predators may also have flow on effects to surrounding food web dynamics through elevated predation levels. Given that flux of energy and nutrients into food webs is central to the regulation of populations and their communities, we advocate further studies of human trophic subsidies be undertaken to evaluate the potentially large ecological implications of this significant human environmental alteration. © 2012 Jessop et al.


Scheelings T.F.,Australian Wildlife Health Center | Dobson E.C.,Gribbles Veterinary Pathology | Hooper C.,Gribbles Veterinary Pathology | Eden P.,Australian Wildlife Health Center
Australian Veterinary Journal | Year: 2015

Background: Guthega skinks have been listed as critically endangered and are considered particularly vulnerable to extinction because of their isolation and restricted distribution. There is no information on their captive husbandry, or the diseases that affect them. Case report: Cutaneous and systemic mycosis from infection with Lecanicillium spp. was diagnosed in a captive colony of Guthega skinks (Liopholis guthega). Infection resulted in the death of five lizards. Diagnosis of infection was confirmed using a combination of histopathology, fungal culture and DNA sequencing from all affected animals. An additional four similarly affected individuals were successfully treated with a combination of voriconazole (10 mg/kg PO once daily) and shallow baths of benzalkonium chloride and polyhexamethylene biguanide hydrochloride (F10) (1: 250, 20 min once daily). This is the first report of Lecanicillium spp. infection in reptiles. © 2015 Australian Veterinary Association.

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