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Koalas’ Method Of Staying Hydrated During Dry Season Filmed For First Time

by : Emma Rosemurgey on : 12 May 2020 17:58
Koalas' Method Of Staying Hydrated During Dry Season Filmed For First TimeUniversity of Sydney/George Madani & Lachlan Hall

Wild koalas have been through a hell of a lot in recent times, with the Australian bushfires ravaging the country during 2019, which has been described as the driest and hottest year in Australia’s history.

Yet, they’re incredibly resilient animals, and during dry times, the marsupials have found another inventive way of keeping hydrated – by licking rainwater as it runs down smooth tree drunks during rainfall.

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The amazingly charismatic creatures have now been filmed rehydrating in such a way for the first time, allowing experts to delve into learning more about these unique animals.

Check it out here:

Wild Koala Day

🐨 There's a lot we still don't know about our koalas. 🐨 New research has uncovered never before seen drinking behaviours in koalas. Read more of Dr Valentina Mella's study via the link in comments. #WildKoalaDay

Posted by University of Sydney on Saturday, May 2, 2020

Koalas are used to living in dry environments, however last year’s devastating bushfires are believed to be responsible for the destruction of more than 20% of Australia’s forests and the deaths of more than 1 billion animals, including many, many koalas.

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Some parts of Australia are still experiencing less rainfall than they would usually receive this time of year, which could potentially pose a threat to marsupials living there. To combat these risks, conservationists have set up many artificial water stations over the years and now scientists say that by further studying how these creatures adapt during intense heat and drought will allow for better conservation in the future, IFL Science reports.

Dr Valentina Mella, who is studying the new development, said in a statement:

For a long time, we thought koalas didn’t need to drink much at all because they gained the majority of the water they need to survive in the gum leaves they feed on.

But now we have observed them licking water from tree trunks. This significantly alters our understanding of how koalas gain water in the wild. It is very exciting.

Koalas' Method Of Staying Hydrated During Dry Season Filmed For First TimeUniversity of Sydney/George Madani & Lachlan Hall
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Researchers from the University of Sydney have collected footage captured by independent ecologists dating between 2006 and 2019.

During this time a total of 44 observations of koalas licking tree trunks right after rainfall have been recorded. According to the findings, which were published in Ethology, one included an adult female with a joey drinking for more than 15 minutes, while another male drank for half an hour.

Koalas' Method Of Staying Hydrated During Dry Season Filmed For First TimeEchidna Walkabout and Koala Clancy Foundation

Mella explained:

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This type of drinking behaviour – licking tree trunks – relies on koalas being able to experience regular rainfall to access free water and indicates that they may suffer serious detrimental effects if lack of rain compromises their ability to access free water.

We know koalas use trees for all their main needs, including feeding, sheltering, and resting. This study shows that koalas rely on trees also to access free water and highlights the importance of retaining trees for the conservation of the species.

It’s likely that koalas have been drinking like this for longer than we are aware of, because many of their habits go unnoticed due to the fact they’re nocturnal animals and are rarely observed during times of heavy rainfall.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

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Emma Rosemurgey

Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.

Topics: Animals, Australia, Bushfires, koalas

Credits

IFL Science
  1. IFL Science

    Adorable Video Reveals How Koalas Stay Hydrated During Australia’s Dry Season For The First Time