Koalas Are Dying Of Thirst At Alarming Rates, So This Farmer Came Up With A Genius Solution

Climate change is widely considered one of today’s most important issues. Each year, scientists are reporting rising sea levels, erratic weather patterns, and rapidly melting ice caps. Humans can only adapt to these changes for so long, but at least we have options to ensure our safety and comfort. Unfortunately, our animal counterparts—whose populations are more sensitive to the changing elements—don’t have such luxuries.

This is especially an issue for Australia’s beloved koalas. Climate change is the primary cause of the destruction of their natural habitat, which experiences such hot weather that the surviving eucalyptus leaves are simply not enough to hydrate them.

For the first time ever, koalas are thirsty in the wild—and the implications of that may indicate a grave future.

Koalas usually get plenty of hydration through their primary source of food: eucalyptus leaves. But with the combination severe droughts and bushfires as a result of climate change, scientists have recently discovered some terrifying news: koalas are dying of thirst.

NTDTV / YouTube

Last year’s bushfires almost completely destroyed the koalas’ natural habitats. Because these marsupials rely so heavily on eucalyptus trees for survival, many were unable to escape—and they perished tragically in the flames, along with possibly millions of other native animals in Victoria, Australia.

Ritam Baidya / twitter

Unfortunately, the bushfires were only the beginning of the koalas’ recent troubles. In Gunnedah, the “Koala Capital of the World,” a whopping 25 percent of koalas died in a 2009 heat wave.

NTDTV / YouTube

Luckily for the survivors, retired farmer Robert Frend from New South Wales decided to help. He proposed that the University of Sydney set up water drinking stations in Gunnedah—something that had never been done before.

NTDTV / YouTube

The dispensers, nicknamed “Blinky Drinkers,” consisted of drinking bowls strapped to trees and fed with a hose from five-gallon drums. Robert even added flaps over the bowl, covered in gauze, to keep lizards and insects from contaminating them.

NTDTV / YouTube

Researchers mounted surveillance cameras in the trees above the drinking stations to monitor how the koalas reacted to having water around. Robert didn’t expect the koalas to take to the new system easily, but they did. In fact, they used it a lot!

The University of Sydney / YouTube

The researchers discovered that the koalas were actually drinking the water quite a bit—for an average of 10 minutes each, in fact. Every single Blinky Drinker was used; it certainly seemed like they were helpful… and necessary.

The University of Sydney / YouTube

Interestingly, the koalas even woke up during the day, when they would normally be sleeping, to drink. Since the experiment was conducted from autumn through winter, Robert was nervous for what that would mean during the dry, hot summers.

The University of Sydney / YouTube

One of the researchers on the project, Dr. Valentina Mella, has a postdoctorate degree at the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences. She confirmed that the droughts causing the koalas’ extreme dehydration were due to climate change.

The University of Sydney / sydney.edu

Dr. Mella was also concerned with the approaching summer season. “What will happen when temperatures rise in summer to make the leaves even drier and the koalas require more relief?” she wondered. “Increasing hot and dry conditions will mean more droughts and heat waves affecting the koalas’ habitat.”

The University of Sydney / sydney.edu

For now, these innovative water stations should help provide some relief for the poor koalas. Watch them in action below. That thirsty koala going for a late-night sip must have been grateful!

As climate change continues to worsen the outlook for animals around the world, the estimated 43,000 koalas left in Australia will likely see more of their struggles escalate. It’s important we learn all we can about how to help.

Robert’s invention was surprisingly helpful, but the new intelligence gathered proved that there was much more work to be done. Now that people know how thirsty koalas are, it’s crucial that a long-term plan is implemented—before it’s too late.

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