Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Mosman, Australia

Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Mosman, Australia

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Edwards C.L.,University of Wollongong | Byrne P.G.,University of Wollongong | Harlow P.,Taronga Conservation Society Australia | Silla A.J.,University of Wollongong
Microbial Ecology | Year: 2016

The rapid spread of infectious disease has resulted in the decline of animal populations globally. Amphibians support a diversity of microbial symbionts on their skin surface that help to inhibit pathogen colonisation and reduce disease susceptibility and virulence. These cutaneous microbial communities represent an important component of amphibian immune defence, however, very little is known about the environmental factors that influence the cutaneous microbiome. Here, we characterise the cutaneous bacterial communities of a captive colony of the critically endangered Australian southern corroboree frog, Pseudophyrne corroboree, and examine the effect of dietary carotenoid supplementation on bacterial abundance, species richness and community composition. Individuals receiving a carotenoid-supplemented diet exhibited significantly higher bacterial abundance and species richness as well as an altered bacterial community composition compared to individuals that did not receive dietary carotenoids. Our findings suggest that dietary carotenoid supplementation enhances the cutaneous bacteria community of the southern corroboree frog and regulates the presence of bacteria species within the cutaneous microbiome. Our study is the second to demonstrate that carotenoid supplementation can improve amphibian cutaneous bacterial community dynamics, drawing attention to the possibility that dietary manipulation may assist with the ex situ management of endangered species and improve resilience to lethal pathogens such as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). © 2016 Springer Science+Business Media New York


PubMed | Palmerston, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, University of Wollongong, Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research and 2 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology | Year: 2016

Ex situ conservation strategies for threatened species often require long-term commitment and financial investment to achieve management objectives. We present a framework that considers the decision to adopt ex situ management for a target species as the end point of several linked decisions. We used a decision tree to intuitively represent the logical sequence of decision making. The first decision is to identify the specific management actions most likely to achieve the fundamental objectives of the recovery plan, with or without the use of ex-situ populations. Once this decision has been made, one decides whether to establish an ex situ population, accounting for the probability of success in the initial phase of the recovery plan, for example, the probability of successful breeding in captivity. Approaching these decisions in the reverse order (attempting to establish an ex situ population before its purpose is clearly defined) can lead to a poor allocation of resources, because it may restrict the range of available decisions in the second stage. We applied our decision framework to the recovery program for the threatened spotted tree frog (Litoria spenceri) of southeastern Australia. Across a range of possible management actions, only those including ex situ management were expected to provide >50% probability of the species persistence, but these actions cost more than use of in situ alternatives only. The expected benefits of ex situ actions were predicted to be offset by additional uncertainty and stochasticity associated with establishing and maintaining ex situ populations. Navely implementing ex situ conservation strategies can lead to inefficient management. Our framework may help managers explicitly evaluate objectives, management options, and the probability of success prior to establishing a captive colony of any given species.


Cashins S.D.,James Cook University | Grogan L.F.,James Cook University | McFadden M.,Taronga Conservation Society Australia | Hunter D.,New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Many amphibians have declined globally due to introduction of the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Hundreds of species, many in well-protected habitats, remain as small populations at risk of extinction. Currently the only proven conservation strategy is to maintain species in captivity to be reintroduced at a later date. However, methods to abate the disease in the wild are urgently needed so that reintroduced and wild animals can survive in the presence of Bd. Vaccination has been widely suggested as a potential strategy to improve survival. We used captive-bred offspring of critically endangered booroolong frogs (Litoria booroolongensis) to test if vaccination in the form of prior infection improves survival following re exposure. We infected frogs with a local Bd isolate, cleared infection after 30 days (d) using itraconazole just prior to the onset of clinical signs, and then re-exposed animals to Bd at 110 d. We found prior exposure had no effect on survival or infection intensities, clearly showing that real infections do not stimulate a protective adaptive immune response in this species. This result supports recent studies suggesting Bd may evade or suppress host immune functions. Our results suggest vaccination is unlikely to be useful in mitigating chytridiomycosis. However, survival of some individuals from all experimental groups indicates existence of protective innate immunity. Understanding and promoting this innate resistance holds potential for enabling species recovery. © 2013 Cashins et al.


Hosey G.,University of Bolton | Melfi V.,Taronga Conservation Society Australia
Zoo Biology | Year: 2014

Human-animal interactions (HAI), which may lead to human-animal relationships (HAR), may be positive, neutral, or negative in nature. Zoo studies show that visitors may be stressful, may have no effect, or may be enriching. There is also evidence that good HARs set up between animals and their keepers can have positive effects on animal welfare. However, we need to know more about negative HARs, and as a first step we attempt to do this here by considering cases where animals attack people in the zoo. Due to the sensitivity and rarity of these events data appear sparse and unsystematically collected. Here, information available in the public domain about the circumstances of these attacks has been collated to test hypotheses about negative HAIs derived from a model of zoo HARs. The limited data presented here broadly support the zoo HAR model, and suggest that attacks usually happen in unusual circumstances, where there may be a failure by the animal to recognise the HAR, or where the relationship, if there is one, does not hold; and give some support to the prediction that exposure to many keepers may impair the development of a positive HAR. This study may provide useful information for the zoo community to proactively collect systematic standardised records, which will enable a fuller understanding of zoo HARs, upon which appropriate measures might be adopted to build better zoo HARs, which are likely to positively impact zoo animal welfare, and reduce these rare incidences further. Zoo Biol. 34:1-8, 2015. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


Bataille A.,Seoul National University | Cashins S.D.,James Cook University | Grogan L.,James Cook University | Skerratt L.F.,James Cook University | And 9 more authors.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2015

The pathogenic chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) can cause precipitous population declines in its amphibian hosts. Responses of individuals to infection vary greatly with the capacity of their immune system to respond to the pathogen. We used a combination of comparative and experimental approaches to identify major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II) alleles encoding molecules that foster the survival of Bd-infected amphibians. We found that Bd-resistant amphibians across four continents share common amino acids in three binding pockets of the MHC-II antigen-binding groove. Moreover, strong signals of selection acting on these specific sites were evident among all species co-existing with the pathogen. In the laboratory, we experimentally inoculated Australian tree frogs with Bd to test how each binding pocket conformation influences disease resistance. Only the conformation of MHC-II pocket 9 of surviving subjects matched those of Bd-resistant species. This MHC-II conformation thus may determine amphibian resistance to Bd, although other MHC-II binding pockets also may contribute to resistance. Rescuing amphibian biodiversity will depend on our understanding of amphibian immune defence mechanisms against Bd. The identification of adaptive genetic markers for Bd resistance represents an important step forward towards that goal. © 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


Staff M.,New South Wales Health | Musto J.,New South Wales Health | Hogg G.,Public Health Laboratory | Janssen M.,Taronga Conservation Society Australia | Rose K.,Taronga Conservation Society Australia
Emerging Infectious Diseases | Year: 2012

A community outbreak of gastroenteritis in Australia during 2007-2009 was caused by ingestion of playground sand contaminated with Salmonella enterica Paratyphi B, variant Java. The bacterium was also isolated from local wildlife. Findings support consideration of nonfood sources during salmonellosis outbreak investigations and indicate transmission through the animal-human interface.


Adams V.M.,University of Queensland | Spindler R.E.,Taronga Conservation Society Australia | Kingsford R.T.,University of New South Wales
Pacific Conservation Biology | Year: 2016

Oceania is a diverse region encompassing Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia, New Zealand and Polynesia, with six of the world's 39 hotspots of diversity but a poor record for extinctions from widespread threats to biodiversity. The region is also culturally diverse, containing close to a quarter of the world's languages and some of the oldest cultures. This makes the region a priority for immediate and sustained conservation action. In this special issue we provide local conservation solutions in Oceania to global problems, capturing the diversity of nations, cultures and environments. The issue is organised by the major threats faced in the region: habitat loss, over exploitation and invasive species. Case studies, framed as coupled problem-solutions, include examples from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific and contrast findings across regions and realms. There are successes and failures faced by conservation in this local region, and the analysis within this special issue offers lessons for conservation globally. © CSIRO 2016.


Carroll G.,Macquarie University | Slip D.,Taronga Conservation Society Australia | Jonsen I.,Taronga Conservation Society Australia | Harcourt R.,Taronga Conservation Society Australia
Journal of Experimental Biology | Year: 2014

Determining where, when and how much animals eat is fundamental to understanding their ecology. We developed a technique to identify a prey capture signature for little penguins from accelerometry, in order to quantify food intake remotely. We categorised behaviour of captive penguins from HD video and matched this to time-series data from back-mounted accelerometers. We then trained a support vector machine (SVM) to classify the penguins' behaviour at 0.3 s intervals as either 'prey handling' or 'swimming'. We applied this model to accelerometer data collected from foraging wild penguins to identify prey capture events. We compared prey capture and non-prey capture dives to test the model predictions against foraging theory. The SVM had an accuracy of 84.95±0.26% (mean ± s.e.) and a false positive rate of 9.82±0.24% when tested on unseen captive data. For wild data, we defined three independent, consecutive prey handling observations as representing true prey capture, with a false positive rate of 0.09%. Dives with prey captures had longer duration and bottom times, were deeper, had faster ascent rates, and had more 'wiggles' and 'dashes' (proxies for prey encounter used in other studies). The mean (±s.e.) number of prey captures per foraging trip was 446.6±66.28. By recording the behaviour of captive animals on HD video and using a supervised machine learning approach, we show that accelerometry signatures can classify the behaviour of wild animals at unprecedentedly fine scales. © 2014. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


Keeley T.,Taronga Conservation Society Australia | Keeley T.,University of Sydney | O'Brien J.K.,University of Sydney | O'Brien J.K.,SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center | And 3 more authors.
General and Comparative Endocrinology | Year: 2012

Numbers of wild Tasmanian devils are declining as a result of the fatal, transmissible Devil Facial Tumor Disease. A captive insurance population program has been initiated but current captive breeding rates are sub-optimal and therefore the goal of this project was to increase our understanding of the estrous cycle of the devil and elucidate potential causes of failed male-female pairings. Temporal patterns of fecal progestagen and corticosterone metabolite concentrations were examined for females (n= 41) in three categories of reproductive status (successful: viable young, n= 20 estrous cycles; unsuccessful: paired with a male but no young confirmed, n= 44 estrous cycles; non-mated: no access to a male during estrus, n= 8 estrous cycles) but substantial differences were not found. Females were more likely to produce pouch young if pairing with the male extended into late proestrus (P< 0.05), thereby decreasing the time between pairing and presumed ovulation. The interval between the end of proestrous elevation in progestagen metabolite concentrations and the beginning of the luteal phase was 7.6 ± 2.3. days in successful females. The length of the luteal phase in successful females was 12.5 ± 1.4. days which was not different from unsuccessful or non-mated females (P> 0.05). Unsuccessful females had 1-3 estrous cycles within a single year. Successful females were predominantly wild-caught (17/19, 90%) and most produced young following the first estrous cycle of the season (18/20, 90%). Unsuccessful females were predominantly captive born (20/27, 74%) in this study. It is possible that a proportion of females that do not produce pouch young achieve conception but the timing of reproductive failure continues to be elusive in this species. © 2012.


Melfi V.,Taronga Conservation Society Australia
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2013

Husbandry training of zoo animals (training) has been associated with many benefits, and indisputably is a valuable tool; training facilitates movement of animals within their environment, and participation in husbandry and medical procedures. Training has also been considered to be enriching. With few exceptions systematic empirical data have not been collected which have evaluated the impact of training zoo animals outside of the training session. Most publications in this area are methodological, outlining what behaviours can be trained and how, or consider the value of training whether it is believed to be beneficial or detrimental. Determining whether training is enriching, is in part hindered by semantics; what is meant by the suggestion that training is enriching? To move this situation forward five hypotheses have been suggested in this paper whereby animals would be considered to be enriched, if training: 1) affords learning opportunities, as learning is considered to be enriching; 2) can achieve the same results as conventional environmental enrichment (CEE); 3) increases human-animal interactions; 4) provides a dynamic change in the animals' day; and 5) facilitates the provision of CEE. These suggested hypotheses are by no means exhaustive, but represent commonly held assumptions used to explain how training might be considered enriching. These hypotheses provide a starting point to systematically consider available data which support or refute whether training is enriching; an evidence based approach.Data collated revealed that training could be considered enriching according to: hypothesis 1, whilst the animal is still learning; hypothesis 2, if the ultimate consequence of training was considered itself enriching. More data are required to test hypothesis 3. And data did not support that training was enriching in and of itself according to hypotheses 4 and 5. In conclusion, training was not considered to be an appropriate alternative to the provision of CEE. Both, training and CEE are recommended to ensure an integrated holistic captive animal management strategy which will meet an animal's needs. © 2013.

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