Cure for wombat mange on the horizon
ENCOURAGING scientific results have emerged on the decades-long quest to protect wombats from sarcoptic mange.
UTAS has enlisted five students to conduct field research and drug trials with the hope of discovering how and where the skin and hair disease spreads.
Senior wildlife and ecology UTAS lecturer Scott Carver said tests involving the insecticide Bravecto on wombats at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary showed the drug could cure mange and was safe to administer every one to three months.
"[It] can make a real difference for our ability to manage this disease for individual wombats," he said.
"We're just about to launch into field trials to demonstrate that we can use it effectively in the field."
Mr Carver said recorded data on mange and other similar diseases spanned back to convicts and early explorers' dogs arriving in Tasmania with scabies and mites.
He said research was continuing into why wombats in some areas of Tasmania were more prone to mange, including Narawntapu National Park in the state's North, which hosted an outbreak in 2006.
The lecturer said researchers were also unearthing clues into how the mange mites are spread.
"We think that it's transmitted between wombats down in burrows," he said.
He said the relatively solitary animals moved into new burrows every four to seven days, with early research indicating the environmental conditions and grouping of animals underground assisted in spreading the disease.
Despite concerns surrounding the disease's impact on the populatio n, data from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment showed a "significant increase" in wombat numbers from 1985 to 2019.
Populations suffered in the west Tamar area from 2009 to 2019, but the broader population has stabilised within the same period.
Field trials of Bravecto and other studies are expected to begin later this year.
The state government has contributed $10,000 annually for the three year research period, while $100,000 was injected into monitoring and treating wombat mange in 2017.
Primary Industries and Water Minister Guy Barnett said UTAS had made "very positive progress" on the issue.
Originally published as Cure for wombat mange on the horizon