New treatment may save our wombats
A BREAKTHROUGH in the treatment of sarcoptic mange in wombats will be tested via field trials in Tasmania and NSW next year, in a move which could ultimately save local populations from the cruel disease.
A large-scale mange outbreak was first noted in Tasmania’s wombat population at Narawntapu National Park in 2010.
There are now only up to 10 wombats left there, and infected wombats are being found across the state.
Community groups like Wombat Rescue have been using Cydectin to treat sick wombats in their burrows, and kits have been sent to volunteers as far afield as Cradle Mountain, Epping Forest, the Great Lakes and Huonville.
But a better solution was needed, said Scott Carver, of the University of Tasmania.
He has been working for the past 18 months to find a more effective treatment — using funds previously given by the Tasmanian Government towards combating wombat mange disease — and has now proved a product used to treat mange in dogs is safe to use on wombats.
Dr Carver — leading a team of researchers from UTAS, University of the Sunshine Coast and University of Sydney — has received an Australian Research Council Linkage Project grant.
With support from partners the state Environment Department, Hydro Tasmania, Highland Conservation, Bonorong wildlife park, MSD Animal Health and WaterNSW, this will allow field trials to be undertaken early next year. “It is not a vaccine but a treatment called Bravecto, which is a much longer-lasting and effective treatment than Cydectin,” Dr Carver said.
“The chemical used is relatively new to the market and really long-lasting.
“One of the problems with treating wild wombats is that Cydectin, while effective, only protects for a week. Wombats are also not very easy patients to work with. They are hard to track and overlap with infected animals as the treatment is wearing off, meaning they can easily get reinfected.
“We have found that Bravecto protects for over three months, and indications are a single treatment at the same dose as a similarly size dog will break the mange mite cycle.”
Dr Carver’s first trials, conducted at Bonorong wildlife park in collaboration from Zoodoo, determined Bravecto was safe to use on wombats.
“Since then I have been working with Cedar Creek Wombat Rescue and Hospital in NSW, one of few places able to manage sick wombats in captivity,” he said.
“We have treated three with mange. Each were given a single dose and all have shown remarkably rapid recovery.”