Usually, a koala covers its water needs with the leaves it eats, often from eucalyptus, but with current climatic conditions this has begun to be insufficient. Australian scientists say that these animals face, like other species, an increasingly hard survival due to climate change. The myth that koalas do not need to drink water is dismantled, according to Valentina Mella, a zoologist at the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney and author of a study published by PlosOne.
In its Australian habitat, the koala is exposed to increasingly repeated extreme heatwaves. If you become dehydrated, you can die. Eucalyptus leaves do not contain enough liquid and ingested in excess could poison the animal. To mitigate the effects of the drought, Mella and her team have designed a system of fountains embedded in the trees to facilitate their access to these creatures.
As an example of the extreme situation, Mella says that sometimes they have approached humans to drink from bottles, an unheard of behavior in them. The researchers first tested some prototypes, including a tree platform that the koalas ignored due to their complexity. But they noted that they did drink from a simple bowl, so they decided to install a gravity-fed system that automatically refills the bowl from a larger tank.
During the first twelve months of the study, the koalas drank from the water stations in 400 visits, often voraciously, even for seven minutes or more in a row. “That is impressive for any animal, and much more for one who is not supposed to drink much. He is telling us that something is happening and that it is time to do something about it.”
The water stations of this team have begun to give their results in other parts of the country and Mella’s team does not rule out that the tool can be useful throughout Australia, given the unstoppable trend to an increasingly warmer climate. The scientist thinks of its usefulness even in private properties: “If you are a farmer and you know that you have koalas in your land, why not have some drinking stations so that these animals can get some water? Or if you are in an urban area and know that they live nearby, why not have a station in your backyard?” Researchers have published a list of tips for those citizens who want to respond to this suggestion.
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