The Crazy Ways Australia's Animals Are Dealing With Its Heat Wave
At the Australian Reptile Park in New South Wales, zookeepers have been misting birds with water to keep them cool. Reptiles are being sprayed with hoses and sprinklers. Carnivores are given what the zoo calls "bloodsickles"—frozen blood that the animals can lick to keep from overheating.
As Australians face one of their hottest years on record—during the hottest month of the calendar there—social media posts have been full of images and videos of people attempting to give local wildlife some relief.
Extreme heat can take a toll on animals as well as people. As with human beings, prolonged exposure can cause heat stroke or even death, especially in vulnerable populations.
Paired with unusually high humidity, meteorologists say the current weather conditions increase the likelihood of animals suffering from heat stress.
Earlier this month, hundreds of flying foxes were found dead. Thousands will likely die before the summer's end. Wildlife officials said continuous exposure to temperatures that hit nearly 120 degrees Fahrenheit were essentially "boiling" the bats alive.
Koalas have also been impacted. Between increasing habitat loss and soaring temperatures, the small animals have been forced from the trees—where they usually spend their time—to the ground in search of water.
Matt Scully was cycling through Adelaide in South Australia when he noticed one such koala on the ground. When he pulled over, he let the koala, which he's since nicknamed "Slurpy," drink from his water bottle.
The thirsty koala drank all the water from the container.
Some wildlife may see long-term impacts, but for others, it's unclear.
Headlines about devastating heat are like déjà vu for a country that experienced record highs in 2017, and it's not likely 2019 will offer much relief.
Last March, scientists noted that koalas are likely to see impacts on their habitat and may require more active human intervention to prevent from dehydrating.
In previous years, heatwaves have killed tens of thousands of flying foxes, some of which are listed as threatened.
Some wildlife rescuers have expressed concern that rapid rates of deforestation could expose more animals to increasingly hot temperatures, as the cooling abilities of shade canopies are stripped away.
This year, at least, forecasters expect to see some short-term relief from the heat in the coming week.