Drinking stations help koalas beat the heat

As the drought in eastern Australia goes on, wildlife like koalas are in desperate need of water. Koala drinking stations can help koalas survive intense heat and drought.

Research published in July 2019 by biologist Dr Valentina Mella and colleagues at The University of Sydney overturned the idea that koalas get all the water they need from eating leaves.  Especially in hot and dry conditions,  koalas will seek out water for drinking.

Dr Mella’s research is based on her field work in Gunnedah on the Liverpool Plains of NSW. During intense heat and drought, the water content of leaves may not provide enough hydration. The toxins in eucalyptus leaves mean that koalas cannot simply eat more leaves to get the moisture they need. They need alternative strategies to find water.

The Koala Water Supplementation Study, led by Dr Mella, began in 2015 in collaboration with Gunnedah landholder Robert Frend who designed the drinking stations.

The team set up tree-mounted water bowls with cameras above to monitor koala drinking behaviour. They found that the total number of koala visits to the drinkers and total time drinking doubled during summer compared to other seasons.

The study has received funding in recent years by the NSW Government’s Saving our Species (SoS) program through a collaboration with University of Sydney, local landholders and the Gunnedah Urban Landcare group.

Between 2016 and 2019, The NSW Government Saving our Species (SoS) program committed more than $72,000 to the project, including the provision of more than 20 drinking stations to local landholders.

Download a fact sheet on how to build and install your own koala drinking stations courtesy of Northwest Local Land services and The University of Sydney.

Image from The University of Sydney.

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