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Ring-tailed lemur in the indoor enclosure.

Remembering Iraga, our male koala

Animal news | 18 March 2021

Koala Iraga

On 17 March, our male koala Iraga had to be put to sleep, following a short but severe illness. Iraga arrived in Dresden in 2013 from Duisburg Zoo, where he was born on 26 June 2011. He quickly blossomed into a calm and companionable resident of Dresden. Unlike our other male Mullaya, Iraga was always a little more cautious and reserved. Over the last seven years, our koalas have enjoyed good health, and have happily given no cause for concern.

Sadly, however, Iraga fell ill this year with a fungal infection, which affects both wild koalas and those in captivity. The pathogen seems to be linked to various species of tree, including eucalyptus. It is often found in the nasal cavity of healthy koalas, but does not always lead to illness. In rare cases, however, it can trigger serious illness, for example through an infection of the nasal cavity or even the linings of the brain and spinal cord. Treatment can take up to a year, and entails medication and surgical procedures. In many cases, however, it cannot be cured.

As is often the case with wild animals, Iraga only started displaying symptoms when the disease was already at an advanced stage: initial non-specific symptoms included weight loss and loss of appetite. The diagnosis was confirmed after a comprehensive series of tests including a CT scan. These revealed extensive growths and bone deterioration in the nasal cavity, where the fungus was detected. The pathogen was also present in the blood. Despite intensive treatment by vets and our keepers, Iraga’s condition worsened dramatically in the last few weeks, giving us little choice but to put him to sleep.

Iraga will now undergo a pathological examination at the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin. Despite his sad passing, we would like to learn as much as possible about this disease in order to combat it in the future.

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