Koala and cub at drinking station © University of Sydney

Koala and cub at drinking station © University of Sydney

Koalas with a thirst for water drinking stations

15 Sep 2020

Keywords
  • koalas
  • Regenerate Australia

Imagine you’re a koala sitting in a eucalyptus tree on a hot summer’s day. It’s the middle of a heatwave and there hasn’t been a downpour of rain in months. You’re parched but can’t absorb enough water from your favourite food source - eucalyptus leaves - because the arid climate has dried them all up. You’re at a crossroads. You either stay in the treetop and risk facing dehydration; or leave the safety of your home to search for water but risk being hit by a car, attacked by a dog or suffering from prolonged stress.

If only there was a way for koalas to get the nutrients they need without leaving the safety of their home…

 

Koala drinking beside a central Queensland road, March 2017 © Sue Gedda / WWF-Aus

 

There is a way - artificial drinking stations!

WWF-Australia, along with The Reece Group, is proud to be supporting WIRES in building and distributing 800 TREE TROFF® arboreal drinkers. The drinkers, which can hold an impressive 220 litres of water, will be placed in fire and drought-affected areas. The aim is to have the drinkers installed by summer to ensure wildlife have access to water during the hottest months of the year.

“Prolonged heatwaves and droughts are forcing more and more koalas to leave the safety of their trees to find water. This puts them at greater risk of being hit by a car, attacked by dogs or livestock, or exposed to prolonged stress. WWF-Australia is pleased to be partnering with WIRES on this simple, but innovative solution that will help koalas and other precious native animals to survive the heat this summer,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.

The Water for Wildlife project is a direct result of research from the University of Sydney that placed water stations in Gunnedah, NSW. Over the year, koalas visited the water stations 401 times to quench their thirst.

Dr Valentina Mella, Postdoctoral Research Associate - Animal Behaviour and Conservation at the University of Sydney, contributed to the koala water station research.

“Our results suggest that future changes in rainfall regimes and temperature in Australia have the potential to critically affect koala populations.

“The more days without rain, the more time koalas spent drinking. During hot weather, visits to water stations were also more frequent, indicating that koalas needed regular access to water.”

But why can’t koalas simply eat more eucalyptus leaves to absorb the moisture they need? Valentina has an answer for this:

“It’s predicted that increased CO2 emissions will increase the level of phenolics and tannins in eucalyptus leaves. This means koalas will need alternative strategies to find water – and that’s where we can help with drinking stations.”

Koalas are not the only animals with a thirst for the arboreal water stations. The drinkers were also visited by other native species including sugar gliders, squirrel gliders, feathertail gliders, brushtail possums, tree frogs, geckos, goannas, pythons and a variety of birds including eastern rosellas, musk lorikeets, noisy miners, galahs, cockatoos, butcher birds, kites, owls, apostlebirds and magpies.

This video shows a koala making friends by sharing the water station with a possum and a frog.

 

“It’s rewarding to see this collaboration of sectors providing a simple solution to a major issue facing so many native animals. Access to water will continue to be a significant problem as the effects of climate change are felt across the country and WIRES is delighted to be able to lead this project,” said WIRES CEO Leanne Taylor.

Landowners can apply for the drinkers which will be provided free of charge to the most impacted areas. Recipients will be required to install and maintain the drinkers on an ongoing basis to benefit local wildlife, particularly threatened species. If well maintained, the drinkers are designed to last up to 20 years and they can be relocated over time to areas of higher need if required.

More details about how to apply, install and maintain the drinkers will be available soon. Registrations of interest can be submitted now via WIRES website: https://www.wires.org.au/water-for-wildlife

You can show your support for koalas here: https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/save-koalas

And for all Australian wildlife here: https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/end-animal-extinction

{{thankYouPopup.firstname}} {{thankYouPopup.lastname}}

Thank you for your {{thankYouPopup.isMonthly ? 'monthtly' : ''}} donation of ${{ thankYouPopup.amount }}

Please check your email for confirmation

{{thankYouPopup.certificatename}}

If you have any questions about your donation, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly Supporter Services team either by email: enquiries@wwf.org.au or call 1800 032 551

Share this page with your friends and family to help endangered animals even more.