Mother with joey on back (Wikimedia)
Extinction of koalas is now beginning to unfold as another casualty of the burgeoning global climate change, which has dried up too many trees.
Tracking 40 koalas across a farmland in Gunnedah in New South Wales for over 3 years, a research team from the University of Sydney found that koalas have been seeking refuge from a number of trees during daytime, when temperatures are most high, debunking previous notion that these animals only prefer eucalyptus trees.
Until recently, koalas were known to typically occupy open eucalypt woodlands, where they also get their food.
The study showed koalas need taller trees with denser foliage to protect themselves from too much heat.
"Our research confirmed koalas shelter during the day in different types of trees to the eucalypts they feed on at night," Dr. Mathew Crowther told ABC News.
"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."
But planting more trees to ensure the dynamics of the koalas' habitat, usually found in coastal areas of the mainland's eastern and southern regions, inhabiting Queensland, NSW, Victoria and SA, and their survival is not enough.
"Koalas are actually down at the bottom of trees dying," he said. "We could see massive declines ... it would be disastrous."
"One quarter of the koalas included in the study perished in a heatwave in 2009," he added.
"The lack of understanding of the importance of shelter trees for koalas is particularly concerning given the increasing frequency of extreme weather events. Exposure to prolonged high temperatures can result in heat stress, dehydration and eventually death," he stressed.
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