Koalas Drink More Water Now—Here's Why That's Weird

Fagjun | Published 2017-04-18 19:07

Koalas have been driven to drink...ing water. Rising temperatures may be the reason that koalas drink more water, which is a significant change in koala behavior.

This may sound strange, but koalas don't need to drink as much water as other animals do. They get the hydration they need from the food they eat. Eucalyptus leaves, which have a high water content, make up much of the koalas' diet. Koalas also conserve body water by passing dry feces and storing water in their caecum.

In recent times, however, koalas have been leaving the safety of their tree branches to drink from water stations. Researchers from the University of Sydney have set up these water stations, which also have cameras that capture how often koalas visit.

Why Koalas Drink More Water than Usual

A koala drinking still water
[Photo by Kate Wilson]

Gunnedah in southeastern Australia claims to be the koala capital of the world. According to the press release by the University of Sydney, they found that koalas have been drinking out of water stations for about 10 minutes at a time. That's a long time spent on drinking for a species that supposedly doesn't need to drink much.

Researchers also report that koalas have been interrupting their sleep in order to drink. Typically, koalas sleep for up to 18 hours a day. Cameras caught the animals leaving their trees in order to go to the drinking stations.

The planet's rising temperatures may be the cause of this change in behavior. Researchers think that koalas drink more water than they usually do because eucalyptus leaves have become drier. As temperatures rise and the planet grows hotter, Australia may experience more droughts and heatwaves. This can adversely affect koala habitats and food sources. This may also make human intervention in the form of the creation of water stations necessary.

The Koala Capital of the World

The province of New South Wales, where Gunnedah lies, experienced record-breaking high temperatures in the recent summer. Scientists project that global temperatures may rise higher still if nations don't work to mitigate climate change and global warming.

A number of things can affect koalas' survival. Koalas are considered to be a vulnerable species. While they're not yet in danger of dying out, they do face some threats and stressors. The rising temperatures are just one thing. Koalas also need to have about a hundred trees for every individual. However, development projects, urbanization, and logging are threatening koala habitats.

Human acts have been impacting other animal species for a long time, in ways that we don't always realize. Koalas drink more water now to survive high temperatures, and they're lucky to have found a way to adapt to environmental changes. These water stations are a huge help, but researchers also say that practical conservation plans will benefit koala survival.

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