Anxious gorillas, thirsty koalas and lame cows – how climate change is making animals miserable

Gorillas

(Jonathan Cooper, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Briony Harris, Senior Writer, Formative Content


From wildfires in California to devastating floods in South Asia, we all know the effects of climate change on human habitats: precious belongings swept away; lungs scorched from smoke inhalation; lives to piece back together.

But what about the fallout for animals? Research shows that rising temperatures and increased humidity are leading to high levels of stress and other health problems for both wildlife and livestock. Like us, animals are often forced to flee their homes during extreme weather events. Unlike us, they may not be able to adapt to new habitats without intervention.

1. Endangered mountain gorillas are getting anxious

A mountain gorilla sits in the forest on the slopes of Mount Mikeno in the Virunga National Park, Eastern DRC December 12, 2008. REUTERS/Peter Andrews (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO) - GM1E4CD0A2L01

These gorillas are threatened by rising temperatures as well as hunters and war
Image: Reuters/Peter Andrews

Virunga gorillas – a fragile population living in cloud-topped mountains in Africa’s Great Lakes region – already face threats from human activity like hunting and war. Now, climate change could be putting them at even greater risk, according to a new study published in the Ecology and Evolution scientific journal.

Over two years, researchers collected fecal samples from 115 Virunga gorillas. They found that the animals’ stress levels were raised during periods of high temperatures and heavy rainfall – both signs of global warming. “Mountain gorillas might be more sensitive to warming trends than previous research has suggested, since their small habitat restricts their ability to seek out colder temperatures,” the authors of the study report. The long-term impact from this level of stress could be falling fertility levels for these endangered creatures.

With temperatures in the region expected to rise by up to 3.6 degrees by 2090, and more extreme rainfall expected, the gorillas’ survival may depend on humans adopting flexible conservation strategies.

2. Too hot to stand: why heat stress is contributing to lameness in cows

Extreme heat caused by climate change is changing the eating habits of cattle – sometimes affecting their health so much that they could become lame within just a few weeks.

When it’s extra-hot outside, heat-stressed animals lose interest in their food. They make up for it later by eating too much once temperatures cool. This can lead to a digestive disorder called acidosis, which is sometimes called “grain overload”. The heat can also lead to heavy breathing; which means that cows don’t have enough carbon dioxide or bicarbonate. This can lead to them getting ulcers or fungal infections in their hooves, and ultimately lameness within weeks.

Heat stress can interfere with metabolism and lead to a poor immune system, disease, and even death. The only way to prevent this is with good heat management, like using fans and sprinklers to keep cattle cool – something that will be harder to keep up if temperatures continue to rise.

How high temperatures can make animals sick.

How high temperatures can make animals sick.
Image: Animal Frontiers

3. Climate change is making koalas thirstier

Australia’s much-loved koalas are also suffering from rising temperatures, according to the Koala Habitat Conservation Plan produced by WWF-Australia. “Climate change is making Australia’s normally challenging weather for koalas more extreme by exacerbating droughts, heat stress and bushfires. This kills koalas, whether directly, such as by overheating and dehydration, or indirectly by degrading the eucalypt forests they live in. Leaf-eating animals are susceptible to declines in foliage quality, nutrient levels and water availability,” the report explains.

Water stations are a welcome sight for thirsty koalas in Australia.

Water stations are a welcome sight for thirsty koalas in Australia.
Image: University of Sydney

Long dry spells have made it harder for koalas to get enough water through their normal source – juicy eucalyptus leaves. A study from the University of Sydney tried giving koalas access to free drinking water sources. Cameras showed koalas drinking from the water stations 400 times in a year.

The research led to the Government of New South Wales installing water stationsfor koalas to help get them through heatwaves and droughts. Known as “Blinky Drinkers”, the stations are monitored by cameras as part of the region’s Save Our Species program: proof that, with a little help from their human friends, animals can weather the worst effects of global warming.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

No barriers to free flow of non-personal data in the EU

Gender parity has a huge role to play in the fight to save our oceans

UN investigates systematic sexual violence across South Sudan

‘End the ongoing atrocities’ against people with albinism in Malawi, say UN rights experts

This entrepreneur is helping farmers get food to consumers during lockdown

Get out, stay out: how financial resilience helps end poverty

New UN poverty report reveals ‘vast inequalities’ between countries

Czech PM should resolve his conflict of interest as a matter of urgency say MEPs

Global hunger is on the rise. These simple steps could help eradicate it

The EU checks the multinationals for tax fraud but Britain may sail out of the EU via Panama

New UN Global Climate report ‘another strong wake-up call’ over global warming: Guterres

EU tells Britain stay in as long as you wish

These chefs are fighting hunger and poverty with gastronomy

‘Ticking bomb’ health warning over deteriorating conditions facing Cyclone Idai victims

Yes, together we can make a change! YO!Fest and EYE 2016

Can the EU afford to block China’s business openings to Europe by denying her the ‘market economy status’?

It takes far too long for a rare disease to be diagnosed. Here’s how that can change

How Jack Ma sees a thriving future of entrepreneurship in Africa

How to create a world where healthcare is a right, not a luxury

Food safety: more transparency, better risk prevention

Why the West supports the yen’s devaluation and Japanese over-indebtedness

World in grip of ‘high impact weather’ as US freezes, Australia sizzles, parts of South America deluged

Women in video games: ‘Accept it, or don’t buy the game’

Human Rights Council election: 5 things you need to know about it

Peru should help more young vulnerable people into work

COVID-19: Both WHO and Europe must learn from the current pandemic, say MEPs

Better air pollution data is helping us all breathe easier. Here’s how

Does the “climate change” require ombudsman services for environment?

Digital technology helped create the skills gap. Here’s how it can help close it

Did young people just kill television?

Restoring prospect of peace in Middle East is ‘our shared responsibility’ UN envoy tells Security Council

‘We will not give up on looking for peace for South Sudan’: UN deputy chief

EU-Turkey relations: Erdogan plays the refugee card while beefing up gas operations in the Eastern Mediterranean sea

Is Haiti better prepared for disasters, nine years on from the 2010 earthquake?

Timor-Leste Foreign Minister highlights value of UN in resolving conflicts

This new way of understanding disease is changing medicine

Asia-Pacific showing ‘decisive leadership’ on road to 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, deputy UN chief tells key forum

UN honours peacekeepers who ‘paid the ultimate price’, for the sake of others

FROM THE FIELD: Keeping Morocco’s indigenous culture and conservation in balance

THE COMMITTEES: ‘All roads lead to the Fifth’

‘Building back better’ – here’s how we can navigate the risks we face after COVID-19

Canada leading the way on women’s inclusion and empowerment, says OECD

Facebook: MEPs demand a full audit by EU bodies to assess data protection

Cultural Intelligence: the importance of changing perspectives

Central banking in times of complexity

Here’s how sustainable aviation fuel can take off in Europe

The European Council takes more measures to stem illegal migration

Legendary Harlem Globetrotters slam-dunk at the UN, with message that brings families, nations together

Eastern Partnership: Commission proposes new policy objectives for beyond 2020

ILO and EIB join forces for more and better quality employment

5 things you need to know about water

France-Germany: Divided in Europe, USA united in…Iran

‘Don’t forget Madagascar’s children’, UN appeals for long-term help as emergency worsens

EU Budget 2019: focus on the young, on migration and innovation

Scotland and First Minister Salmond enter the most challenging battlefield for independence: Europe

Take action on air pollution to save lives, and the planet, urges UN chief

‘Pioneering’ former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet officially appointed new UN human rights chief

Parliament ready to fight for a different EU budget

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: prizewinning journalists freed in Myanmar, new tracking tool for suspected terrorists, and a global bid to stop snakebite deaths

UN rights chief slams ‘unconscionable’ US border policy of separating migrant children from parents

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s