The Australian bushfires have taken a huge toll, both human and animal, which is why it’s understandable to want to help in any way one can if one encounters any wildlife that has suffered because of the fires.
Koalas have been particularly hard hit and these animals have become the face of the Australian brushfires and the animal people most want to help.
But one wildlife expert warns that your generosity could end up killing the very animal you’re trying to save.
Currumbin Wildlife Hospital senior veterinarian Michael Pine said that while koalas should be given water to drink if they need it, the water should never be poured down their throats.
Pine explained, “Normally healthy koalas don’t drink but the incredibly dry conditions mean they will because they aren’t getting enough fluid.
“As long as the koala is lapping and drinking itself that’s fine but forcing it into their mouth – there is a risk that koala could breathe the liquid.”
And should that happen, the koala could develop pneumonia, a potentially fatal occurrence.
If you do want to give water to a koala, the best way is to fill a bowl of water and place it on the ground. Either that or let water flow near their mouth so that they can use their tongue to lap at it.
The hospital where Pine works have already treated roughly 550 koalas in 2019, a hundred more than in 2018, most of them from September to December.
“It’s easy to overlook because of the bushfires but the hot and dry conditions are a bigger problem for them.”
Pine gave his advice on the heels of a viral video that showed a cyclist in South Australia giving a koala a drink from a water bottle.
Anna Heusler was on her way to the Adelaide CBD when she encountered the parched marsupial.
It was 42 degrees that day and the animal gratefully gulped down the water Heusler gave it.
Dutch Thunder Wildlife Shelter founder Kylee Donkers added that the hot and dry weather was causing a lot of koalas to become dehydrated.
Volunteers for the shelter, near Cobram in Victoria, have put up GPS-tracked water stations for the parched koalas.
“We did 15 rescues on Monday of which 13 were heat-affected koalas,” Donkers said.
The region has seen temperatures rise above 40 degrees in the latter half of December.
“We’re right on the Murray River so people don’t understand why we’re putting water out but it’s because the section of the river is highly camped.
“This pushes the koalas right back into the bush where there is no water, we’ve had two dog attacks on koalas that did try to venture to the river.”
Donkers mentioned that she had to cordon off an area where koalas were recuperating as they were getting annoyed by people.
“We’ve had buckets of ice poured over the koalas, people try to give them sandwiches, and even alcohol,” she said.