Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Safe-guarding koalas against climate-change (#135)

Valentina S.A. Mella 1 , Clare McArthur 1 , Mathew S. Crowther 1
  1. The University of Sydney, Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia

The koala is an iconic Australian species listed as threatened in both National and State legislation and is one of the world's flagship species suffering from climate change. Extreme weather events associated with global warming are increasing dangerously in Australia and represent an ongoing threat for koala populations. Increasing hot and dry conditions are causing droughts and heatwaves which lead to drastic declines in koala populations. Yet the importance of free water availability for koalas’ survival during these extreme climate events is currently unknown. In collaboration with land-holders in the Liverpool Plains in New South Wales, we are investigating the use of artificial water stations as a mitigation tool for koalas during heatwaves and droughts. We are currently monitoring koala behaviour at several water stations using camera traps, as part of a long-term experiment to assess if and how the use of water stations changes over the months (winter vs summer) and during different temperature (heatwaves) and rainfall (droughts) conditions. Details about the visits to the water stations, including number of visits, time spent drinking and other behaviours displayed by koalas are quantified and related to temperature and rainfall. This is the first study documenting the use of free water by koalas in the wild and the possible benefit of water supplementation for koala populations.