I hope this update finds you in good health and spirits. Amidst these challenging times, I wanted to share an update with you detailing the progress we have made thanks to your generous support.
Our koala study is going well and continues to expand.
We have been able to demonstrate that the use of free water by wild koalas has always been underestimated and that koalas have stronger reliance on free water than previously thought. This University of Sydney article details our recent research findings, including the phenomena of koalas drinking water by licking trees during rain.
We have received requests from all over Australia from people who would like to set up drinking stations for koalas on their properties. We also have new exciting collaborations with WIRES.
With your gift, we have been able to:
- Microchip, ear tag and monitor health and disease of 117 koalas since the beginning of the crowdfunding campaign;
- Track 43 koalas so far using VHF devices (another 60 soon);
- Monitor how leaf moisture changes between seasons and in drought conditions;
- Determine the differences in the energy and water use between drinking and non-drinking koalas.
We are now investigating the relationship between water supplementation and koala core body temperature. Koalas use evaporative cooling (i.e. panting) to lower their body temperature when it is hot, but by panting koalas lose a lot of body water. This needs to be replenished by eating leaves or by drinking free water. During heatwaves and droughts, koalas’ capacity to sustain high levels of evaporative cooling is restricted by the lack of available water in the environment. Hence, water supplementation may play an essential role for the survival of koalas and may help drinking individuals to keep cool when temperature is high. By monitoring core body temperature we will determine if there are differences in how drinking and non-drinking koalas cope with temperature extremes.
Thank you so much for donating to our project. Your contribution has gone a long way for koala conservation, and we have achieved so much to help koalas.
Climate change is an immediate threat that is already taking its toll on koala populations and effective mitigation measures need to be assessed and implemented quickly.
If you are in a position to do so, I ask you to please continue to support our work on koalas. Our team is multidisciplinary and comprises of dedicated scientists with different expertise in koala research, pioneering studies in koala behaviour, ecology, health and conservation.
Thank you for supporting our koalas and our research.
Dr Valentina Mella