Freezing koala sperm could be a key strategy to save koalas from extinction by 2050.
University of Newcastle scientists Lachlan Howell and Ryan Witt say koala "bio-banking", could be harnessed with IVF technology to help the endangered species reproduce.
An estimated 64,000 koalas were killed when 5.5 million hectares was destroyed during the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires in NSW.
The federal government listed the species as endangered in February.
"If the koala population dies in these kind of fire events, there is no way to bring them back or preserve their genetics," Dr Witt said.
The research published in the journal Animals on Wednesday found that, biobanking would allow the storage of live koala genes by freezing sex cells such as sperm.
"The frozen sperm can then be used to impregnate female koalas in breed-for-release programs, using assisted reproductive technology", the researchers said.
"We can cryopreserve koala sperm, just like we do for humans".
They also noted the strategy would be five-to-12 times cheaper than current captive koala breeding methods and wouldn't compromise their genetic diversity.
The new research comes days after NSW Environment Minister James Griffin announced a record $200 million for koala conservation to help double the state population of the endangered Australian icon.
The lion's share of the $193.3 million will go to funding 47,000 hectares of koala habitat over the next five years to help existing populations.
Nearly $20 million will go to helping local communities conserve koalas, while another $23.2 million will go to koala support programs including relocation and rehabilitation.
Australia has the highest rate of species extinction in the world with climate change expected to raise the risk of further annihilation.
Australian Associated Press
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