One million dollars donated to the wildlife rescue group WIRES after the bushfire crisis will pay for the rollout of koala drinkers across New South Wales.
- Landowners can apply to host one of the drinkers on their property
- Researchers say the devices reduce the need for koalas to go to ground in search of water
- A recent inquiry found climate change was impacting the availability of food and water for koalas
Eight hundred of the devices, which are essentially bubblers for koalas suspended in trees, are being manufactured in Gunnedah and are expected to be installed before the start of summer.
WIRES is encouraging both private and public landowners to apply to host the drinkers on their properties.
Drought and fire-affected locations will be given priority.
Gunnedah farmer Robert Frend, who has been developing the drinkers for about five years, says the design has evolved significantly.
“We just started off with half a go-kart tire, a watering can and a ladder, and filled it up with water,” he said.
Mr Frend said anyone able to accommodate a drinker should apply.
“This is almost instantaneous — it’s right now, with dehydration, climate change … people can actually do something about it,” he said.
Researchers at the University of Sydney found koalas were more likely to go in search of water during periods of drought or extreme heat than was first thought.
Post-doctoral researcher Valentina Mella said it was essential to keep koalas from going to down to the ground.
“A lot of koalas get hit by cars just after rain because they come close to the ground,” she said.
Dr Mella said her research revealed more about how much water koalas drink.
“They would lick the tree trunk and the branches and the leaves while it rains, so that they can stay in the tree and still get the water they need,” she said.
The rollout of the drinkers comes months after a NSW parliamentary inquiry revealed koalas could be extinct in the state by 2050 without any intervention.
“Climate change is having a severe impact on koala populations by affecting the quality of their food and habitat,” the inquiry found.
Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann, who headed up the inquiry, said projects like this were welcome, but should not be reliant on donations.
“If the government is serious about protecting what is out national icon, measures like that are potentially something government should be working more closely on,” Ms Faehrmann said.
The drinkers are designed to last up to 20 years, and can support other wildlife in addition to koalas.