Koalas don't like water but they're being 'driven to drink' by climate change

Koalas don't like water but they're being 'driven to drink' by climate change
Koala
PHOTO: AFP

Koalas have what some would consider the dream life: Eating and sleeping all day.

When they're awake they eat leaves, which is their complete source of nourishment. But fun fact: Koalas don't drink water. At least, they didn't used to, except in extreme cases.

But thanks to climate change, our marsupial friends are being driven to drink more water than ever before. Their leaves are simply drying up.

That's a phenomenon that's led researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia to conduct a long-term study on the impact of water on koala populations, and its potential benefits. It's even seen them set up special "drinking stations" just for koalas.

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"Increasing hot and dry conditions will mean more droughts and heat waves affecting the koalas' habitat," Dr Valentina Mella, a postdoctoral researcher, said in a statement.

"It is believed that koalas are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they rely exclusively on trees - not only to sleep on but also for eating, which together comprise of the bulk of their activities."

Koalas have been very thirsty especially in Gunnedah - the self-proclaimed "koala capital of the world" - where their population was reduced by 25 per cent during a heat wave in 2009.

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In the study, the Gunnedah koalas were observed via hidden surveillance cameras drinking from the artificial stations day and night, consuming around 10 minutes worth at a time, even during the winter months.

Semi-retired local farmer Robert Frend designed the water stations to aid researchers. They're nicknamed the "Blinky Drinker," in a nod to the cartoon koala, Blinky Bill.

"I'd always believed that koalas get all their moisture from the leaves," Frend told Reuters.

Read the full article here.


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