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The aim of the research is to sterilize as many possums as possible. So scientists are enlisting the animal's own immune system using proteins from possum sperm and egg to create a vaccine that will prevent fertilization. Initially, the plan is to introduce the vaccine in the form of genetically modified carrots. But such a bait-delivered vaccine will still only reach a small percentage of the entire possum population. So Joanne Meers, a virologist at Massey University, is working to find a virus that could be used to spread sterility from one possum to another.
MEERS: Viruses have an advantage over other delivery systems, in that it gives two chances or two hits at being specific for possums. Not only have we got a virus that will only infect possums, but we also have a bit of - the protein is also specific for possums. So we have two prongs in the attack of being specific for possums.
COUKELL: Developing an infectious agent that spreads sterility requires a great deal of caution. The scientists will have to proceed carefully to ensure that the virus affects only possums and not humans or other animals
Alan Coukell reported on the problem of possums in New Zealand. The non-native species ate tens of thousands of tons of forest each day and can spread tuberculosis to other animals.
Originally posted by pazcat
People have been doing this in Australia with Koalas between 1997 - 2001. So there has been strong evidence to say it actually works in controlling numbers.
"In the 1930s our koala population was threatened," he said.
"Now we have a pretty healthy koala population but in some areas there are too many koalas and that is meaning not enough food for them."
Mr Thwaites says Victoria is the first state in Australia to have a plan to control its koala population through contraception.
"It makes sense to have a humane, sensible approach like contraception which prevents the koala populations getting out of hand, rather than coming in and having a cull later on down the track," he said.
The trial saw adult female koalas rendered infertile for six years using a contraceptive implant placed in the back of the animals' necks.