How much can a koala bear?
On a scorching, dry day, there’s nothing more important than hydration. But for koalas living in the Eastern states, extreme temperatures are drying out the eucalyptus leaves that once provided them with all the water they required.
Parched and overheated, Australia’s iconic koalas are growing desperate and changing their behaviour to cope with rising temperatures: they’re drinking.
This is a worrying behavioural change for an animal whose name literally means “no drink”. Postdoctoral Research Associate Valentina Mella from the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences - whose research uncovered this growing trend in the koala population, is hoping to make others aware about the dire impact the heat is having on koalas and what it could mean for their survival.
To help affected populations, Dr Mella has created ‘Blinky Drinkers’—water feeders which can be placed up in the trees to give struggling koalas access to safe drinking water when needed.
The koalas that are part of the study are marked with uniquely numbered microchips and ear-tags for future identification and they undergo regular health checks. Water stations are monitored using infra-red motion-sensor cameras and microchip readers to record visits by koalas and to establish how many koalas access the same water points.
This study is the world-first to quantify the use of free water by koalas in the wild. Therefore, this project is vital to understand whether koala water supplementation can be used as a mitigation tool against heat-stress and if the dramatic declines in koala numbers can be reduced over hot summers.
This project is fundamental for the ongoing protection of one of Australia's much loved native species.
Your gift to the ‘Koala Drinking Fountains’ project will help Dr Mella and her team to set-up more ‘Blinky Drinkers’ in threatened koala communities and better understand how we can help our koalas face the problem of a changing climate.”