Home Threats Fire and Drought
Fire and Drought

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 Fire

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Fire has a major impact on the environment.

The Macedon Ranges Shire is a very high risk fire prone area, as are some of our bordering Shires. In recent years we have experienced some severe fire events that have impacted both private properties and public land.

So why is fire such a risk to our koala populations?

Koalas spend their lives dependant on Eucalyptus trees. These trees are highly flammable. Low ground fires either from prescribed burns or grass / bushfire generate a lot of smoke that can lead to smoke inhalation and minor burns.

Uncontrolled bushfires generate great heat and will often crown  - a fire that burns the tree canopy - this will burn and scorch most leaves. Koalas caught in the middle of a fire storm will more than likely perish. Those on the fringe areas could suffer horrific burns.

During fire incidents a koala will climb to the top of the tree with no chance of escape.

 

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Kerrie fires 2013.  Above - a male koala suffered from an injured arm, singed fur and smoke inhalation. He was one of the luckier ones, that area of the fire didn't crown.

                             Below -  (right) the same koala being accessed and rehydrated after being caught.       

                                          (left) After a a period of rehabilitation he was released back his home range area.

 

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In fires others aren't so lucky..................

 

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Another threat from fire is the loss of areas of habitat - food trees destroyed. Koala populations could starve to death. 

 


 

 

Drought and Heat Extremes

 

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During extend dry periods most plant life suffers, small trees die and larger trees drop many leaves in order to conserve moisture. Less leaves means less food available for koalas. Another defence for eucalyptus trees is an increase of tannins (the toxic component of the leaf chemicals) making the leaves less palatable for koalas.

During the last extended drought period many koalas were found on the ground at the base of trees, or simply dead on the ground. Why?

The cause - many these koalas were suffering from malnutrition and dehydration, they were starving to death and too weak to climb. Some were simply old and could not grind the leaves well enough to gain enough nutrients from the leaves, others were younger and simply could not find enough palatable leaves. Most were suffering from renal failure due to the toxic nature of the leaves and the low water content. There was little other water to drink.

 

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Extreme Heat

Koalas do not cope well with high temperatures, extended periods of days above 35 degrees can be fatal.

Koalas do not have the ability to cool themselves like other animals, they don't sweat or pant.

During very hot days koalas will be found lower in trees, on the shady side. They will often have as much of their body surface exposed to the air as possible, to help keep them cooler.

                                    

         alt      On hot days, really demonstrating their amazing balance. 

 

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