Never-Before-Seen Video Solves Mystery Of Koala Drinking Habits

Australian researchers have solved the mystery of how koalas prefer to drink water in the wild.

A study published in the journal Ethology claims to have captured koalas licking water off tree trunks, changing the way scientists understand the marsupial’s drinking habits.

The research, led by Dr Valentina Mella from the University of Sydney, described how the native marsupial drinks water as it runs down tree trunks.

Koalas lick water that runs down tree trunks, according to the study. Image: University of Sydney

Mella said the “exciting” find significantly altered the understanding of how koalas get water in the wild.

“For a long time, we thought koalas didn’t need to drink much at all because they gained the majority of the water they need to survive in the gum leaves they feed on,” she said.

“But now we have observed them licking water from tree trunks.”



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Free-ranging koalas were seen licking water as it ran down a tree trunk during rainfall or immediately after.

This action was observed 44 times in the You Yangs Regional Park in Victoria.

Further observations of drinking were recorded in the Liverpool Plains area in NSW.

Each instance was noticed by Mella by chance and reported.

Koalas eat about 510 grams of fresh eucalyptus daily, which provides up to three-quarters of the marsupial's water intake.

The study observed koala drinking habits. Image: University of Sydney

The study explained that koalas in captivity have been observed drinking water, but this was attributed to disease or heat stress.

Koalas have also been know to approach humans for drinking water, particularly after a bushfire or during extreme drought, but this also considered extremely unusual.

Anecdotal evidence suggests koalas have used waterholes in the wild when temperatures have exceeded 40 degrees Celsius.

The research highlights the dependence koalas have on trees for drinking. Image: University of Sydney.

The marsupial's reliance on trees is further highlighted by the study, as well as their susceptibility to weather conditions.

“This type of drinking behaviour -- licking tree trunks -- relies on koalas being able to experience regular rainfall to access free water and indicates that they may suffer serious detrimental effects if lack of rain compromises their ability to access free water,” Mella said.

We know koalas use trees for all their main needs, including feeding, sheltering and resting.

“This study shows that koalas rely on trees also to access free water and highlights the importance of retaining trees for the conservation of the species.”

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