US puma research may help our devils

Scott Carver with an 18-month-old female puma, weighing 40 kilograms. He will conduct research to assist disease management in Tasmanian wildlife.

Scott Carver with an 18-month-old female puma, weighing 40 kilograms. He will conduct research to assist disease management in Tasmanian wildlife.

WILDLIFE disease management of Tasmanian devils could be assisted by a US research project that examines wild puma populations in Florida, Colorado and California.

University of Tasmania ecologist Scott Carver is working on the $2.4 million partnership project that will investigate how human wildlife management programs impact on infectious disease spread in animal species.

Dr Carver said little was known about the impacts of human conservation management on wildlife and the spread of disease on their populations.

He said he and his colleagues would conduct mathematical genetic modelling on laboratory samples, to see how disease is expected to spread geographically through the puma populations.

‘‘We will use the genetics of several different viruses to trace their spread through the puma populations,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a very accurate way to determine how diseases move and which animals are most likely to be more susceptible to contracting diseases.

‘‘We want to develop a deeper understanding of the impacts of the environment, animal population genetics, and management interventions on the spread of diseases in native animals.’’

Dr Carver said he hoped the results would increase Tasmania’s understanding of how to manage its invasive diseases such as the facial tumour in Tasmanian devils, mange in wombats and chlamydia in koalas.

A PHD student from the University of Tasmania will also be working with Dr Carver.

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