Wildlife

Koalas in Danger as Aussie Temperatures Soar

Australia’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 from the University of Sydney 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.”

According to the non-profit Climate Council think tank, this September was the hottest ever recorded in Australia, with national average temperatures 2.75 degrees higher than the long-term average.

In a report published Thursday on the latest Bureau of Meteorology data, the council said 2013 was on track to become Australia’s hottest year on record, surpassing the previous mark set in 2005.

Thought to number in excess of 10 million before British settlers arrived in 1788, there are now believed to be as few as 43,000 left in the wild, though their existence high in the treetops makes them difficult to count.

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