Ready access to water containers is helping Gunnedah's koalas to cope with the dry conditions.
The University of Sydney carried out a water turnover study in winter 2018 and January 2019 to find out how koalas utilise water and how this impacts their overall health.
In summer, blood samples were taken from almost 50 koalas at two properties - the Dip, and Dimberoy, owned by drink container designer Robert Frend - and the researchers found that koalas regularly accessing water containers were benefiting compared to those that weren't. The water drinkers are placed in trees, with a video camera and microchip scanner to record koala visits.
"It was a really good [study] because we found koalas that are using the drinker have a higher water turnover than koalas not using the drinkers, which means they are using water better. It's a measure of how quickly they can replenish the water they lose in a certain time," she said.
"We're starting to see some effects of the water we're giving them, so it's good news. We're very excited about that."
Her colleague, veterinary pathologist Professor Mark Krockenberger, said they were now trying to sort out all the other factors that influence water turnover.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that supplementing water does have a positive effect on koalas," he said.
"We'll be doing another follow-up study next summer."
The team will also use temperature capsules in summer to measure the effect of heat on the koalas and how water helps them to manage it. It hasn't been done before.
When ingested, the capsules can measure internal temperature over a period of time and data can be downloaded remotely.
When the NVI spoke to Dr Mella about the project earlier this year, she said when koalas pant to cool down, they lose water and become dehydrated so the capsules can help them to determine how hot koalas get before they become dehydrated or are at risk of death.