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Dehydrated koalas, global warming’s victims

Due to hotter temperatures, the koalas population is rapidly declining. They suffer from severe dehydration because of heatwaves and the destruction of their natural habitat. This has never been seen for koalas.

Heart-rending scenes are multiplying, showing weakened koalas forced to turn to humans.

  • An Australian giving water through a hose to a koala in her garden
  • A cyclist sharing his bottle with a thirsty koala
  • Lost koalas in cities, perched on advertising panels or barbed wires
  • Lost koalas wandering on lands…

What is happening in Australia?

Dehydrated-koalas

Credit: EVI

Heatwaves force koalas to drink water

The koala is an endemic marsupial from Australia. It is sedentary and lives in eucalyptus forests. During the day, the koala stays in big trees with large foliage to be protected from the heat. It eats during the night eucalyptus leaves, which are its exclusive food but also a source of water!

The animal does not drink, except during heatwaves because eucalyptus contains enough water. The leaves of this tree are actually a poison. The koala is the only species capable of feeding from eucalyptus leaves but this poor nutritional and toxic diet forces him to sleep between 18 and 20 hours per day. The rise of carbon dioxide rate in the atmosphere complicates even more the koala’s life by diminishing the nutritional intake from eucalyptus leaves.

For more information, refer to Oceania’s animals.

Emblematic species from Australia, the koala has unfortunately become a symbol of global warming consequences and the loss of their habitat.

An endangered species

The koala has been listed amongst vulnerable species to be protected since 2012 in some Australian states. Since 2016, it is on the red list of species threatened with extinction. Although it is considered as a destructive animal in some states where the population is regulated. The population has had a decrease of 80% in ten years. Currently, we only count 43 000 wild individuals whereas they were hundreds of thousands at the beginning of this century. Before the island colonization by Britons in 1788, the koala population was estimated to 10 million. Popular for their fur, they were victims of intensive hunting during the 1920s.

With global warming, koalas can suffer from dehydration – as soon as the thermometer is above 30°C. out of despair, koalas have adapted to survival: they look for humans – bystanders, cyclists, drivers, residents, farmers to have some water.

Bush fires are more and more numerous and this rather slow marsupial, who almost never moves on the ground is very vulnerable: it cannot flee from them.

Other factors explain the animal disappearance. The urban rise and the development of agriculture are possible to the expense of the destruction of natural habitats. For constructions, eucalyptus forests are being destroyed leaving animals without shelter.

Koalas don’t have the choice but to leave the bush. They get closer to urbanized areas in search for water or space. There, they meet unprecedented dangers for them, such as the risk of being run over by a car while crossing a road or predation from dogs. Currently, the koala is also a victim of a devastating illness: chlamydia, a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. It causes blindness, infertility and sometimes death.

Protecting the koala

  • To save the koala, it is necessary to restore its habitat. This means planting eucalyptus but also other crucial large trees. To preserve the koala, it is necessary to restore its habitat. This means re-planting eucalyptus but also other species of big trees crucial to their survival as they take shelter there during the day.
  • But it is also by paying attention to our everyday actions that we can participate in protecting the species. Global warming is also a global phenomenon that has no borders. Pursuing our efforts to reduce the global warming is therefore an evidence.

  • You can also support this cause by donating to local associations such as Wildcare Australia or Australian Koala Foundation. Participate in preserving koalas and their environment.