Koalas in danger as temperatures soar
SYDNEY - Agence France-Presse
Australia’s koala could face a wipeout from increasing temperatures. AFP photoAustralia's native koala could face a wipeout from increasing temperatures unless "urgent" action is taken to plant trees for shelter as well as eucalypts to eat, a study found Thursday.
Lead researcher Mathew Crowther said the three-year study tracked 40 koalas by satellite in north-western New South Wales to examine their nesting and feeding habits. It was the first research to compare where the tree-dwelling marsupials spent their days against their nights and found that large, mature trees with dense leaves were critical to their survival, particularly during extreme weather events like bushfires and heatwaves.
“Our research confirmed koalas shelter during the day in different types of trees to the eucalypts they feed on at night,” said Crowther. “We found the hotter it is during the day the more koalas will tend to seek out bigger trees with denser foliage to try to escape those temperatures.” Unlike their very selective feeding sites - koalas eat the leaves of a narrow range of eucalyptus species - Crowther said the study found the animals would shelter in a relatively wide variety of trees, underscoring the impact of land-clearing on their vulnerability as Australia’s temperatures hit new records.
Crowther said one-quarter of the study group was wiped out by a 2009 heatwave that preceded Australia’s Black Saturday bushfires, an alarming statistic “given the increasing frequency of extreme weather events.”