Courtesy of Dr Valentina Mella
Koalas may need bowls of water provided by humans to survive the increasingly harsh weather brought on by climate change.
It has long been thought that koalas get all the hydration they need from the leaves they eat, but now researchers have found that they will use artificial water stations throughout the year and for longer periods in hot months.
Their numbers are under threat from habitat destruction, disease and attacks from feral animals. But climate change also poses a problem, as the leaves from eucalyptus trees, which provide most of a koala’s diet, look set to become drier and less nutritious.
Valentina Mella and colleagues at the University of Sydney wanted to see if they could help, so they placed automatically refiling bowls of water on the ground and in the forks of trees, connected up to tanks, and set up infrared and motion-sensing cameras nearby.
To their surprise, they found that koalas drink from the bowls throughout the year, spending an average of 10 minutes there even in the cooler months.
But koalas were twice as likely to visit and spent twice as long drinking during summer, when the temperature is often above 40°C and the environment is drier.
While koalas are tree-dwelling, nocturnal animals, Mella and her colleagues found they were even coming to the ground stations during the day.
It wasn’t only koalas who used these water bowls either. The team spotted sugar gliders, feathertail gliders, brushtail possums, echidnas, Eastern grey kangaroos, hares, feral cats and red foxes.
Journal reference: PLOS One, DOI: 10.0.5.91/journal.pone.0216964