Climate Change Is Forcing Koalas to Leave Trees to Find Water, Researchers Say
Koalas used to have the life. But times have changed.
The tree-climbing marsupials spend almost all of their time sleeping or eating eucalyptus leaves, but new research suggests climate change has disrupted that pattern.
Normally, their diet of eucalyptus leaves provides enough water but rising temperature and shifting rainfall patterns have driven koalas to leave the safety of their trees seek out new sources, according to Reuters.
This increases their risk for becoming prey, scientists say.
Surveillance footage at a koala preserve in Gunnedah, Australia recorded the marsupials drinking from artificial water stations for an average of ten minutes—even during the day, when the nocturnal creatures should be sleeping.
Dr. Valentina Mella, who led a University of Sydney study observing the behavior pattern, warned of the future impact drier conditions could have. She said koalas, listed as vulnerable to extinction, are threatened by climate change “because they rely exclusively on trees.”
Australia recorded its hottest summer on record, according to Reuters. Researchers expect the trend to get worse in next summer and will continue to observe the koalas via remote surveillance.