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

COP21 Breaking News_10 December:#ParisAgreement: Points that remain in suspense

Why CEOs need to become activists in sustainability

“Two Pack” approved: Is democracy chased away from Brussels?

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: Guterres in Kenya, Prisoners sick in Iran, #GlobalGoals, Myanmar, Ukraine updates, and new space partnership

EU accused of being too nice with Gazprom in the infamous antitrust case

How the powerful science of behaviour change can make us healthier

Tragedy of Mediterranean deaths continues, as seven drown, 57 rescued: UN migration agency

Threat from petty criminals who turn to terrorism, a growing concern, Security Council hears

Commission proposes new Regulation to ensure EU travellers continue to benefit from free roaming

Venice will now start charging tourists an entrance fee

Coronavirus: Commission Statement on consulting Member States on proposal to prolong and adjust State aid Temporary Framework

Migrants, asylum seekers detained in Hungary ‘deliberately deprived of food’: UN human rights office

Berlin ‘orders’ the EU Parliament to compromise

EU-India summit: Will the EU manage to sign a free trade agreement with India before Britain?

Brexit update: Tusk’s proposal is out and Cameron takes it all

Backed by UN, Asia-Pacific countries to advance space technology for ‘development transformation’

Burned in the Amazonian forest: Your health may be in danger

We can end routine gas flaring by 2030. Here’s how

UN member states express their will to tackle global migration but specific actions are still missing

Missions of Our Time Shared by China and EU

How young entrepreneurs should be supported: what assistance should governments provide?

Take-home pay growing at lowest level since 2008, as gender-gap persists: UN labour agency

In 1975 NASA envisioned future life in space would look like this

Budgetary Control Committee asks for stronger measures to protect EU spending

Mandatory Transparency Register: political meeting to restart negotiations

Children are so hungry in one British town they are eating from bins

We need a new approach to cutting greenhouse gas emissions: and it’s all about innovation

Strength in unity: Commission makes recommendations for the EU’s next strategic agenda 2019-2024

There is a forgotten solution to climate change that we must invest in – nature

At Arab League Summit, Guterres reaffirms strong link between UN and people of Arab world

A Sting Exclusive: “Europe needs decisive progress for stronger cybersecurity”, EU Commissioner Gabriel highlights from Brussels

How the technology behind deepfakes can benefit all of society

The missiles fired against Damascus, Syria divided Europe deeply

Central Africa: Security Council concerned by ‘grave security situation’, calls for better agency cooperation

3 reasons why AI won’t replace human translators… yet

What we can learn from Europe’s response to the COVID-19 crisis

Commission provides 20 cities with funding for innovative security, digital, environmental and inclusion projects

Coronavirus: Commission holds first meeting of EU COVID-19 national scientific advice platform

A 550 km-long mass of rotting seaweed is heading for Mexico’s pristine beaches

Humanity ‘at a crossroads’ as damage to planet poses growing risk to health, UN environment agency warns

GSMA Mobile 360 – Africa on 16-18 July 2019, in association with The European Sting

Brexit: visa-free access to the EU for UK nationals and to the UK for Europeans

How young people are turning the tide against corruption

To feed 10 billion people, we must preserve biodiversity. Here’s how

Is it just visa-free travel that Erdogan demands from the EU to not break the migration deal?

The needs, challenges and power dynamics of refugee resettlement

How public transportation provides key lifelines during COVID-19

5 crises that could worsen under COVID-19

COVID-19 and nature are linked. So should be the recovery.

Ship Recycling is the Commission’s Titanic

Women in Iceland have walked out of work to dispute the gender pay gap

How we measure stakeholder capitalism will determine our recovery

Guterres says justice must be done following deadly Burkina Faso convoy attack

Driving structural change through global value chains integration

Scoring for the environment: what Mathieu Flamini’s top-flight football career taught him about leadership

The EU adopted €297 million in concrete actions for refugees and local communities in Jordan and Lebanon

4 priorities for a better built environment in the post-COVID city

Yanukovych attempts a violent and deadly cleansing of Kiev’s center

WhatsApp to face scrutiny from EU regulators task force over data sharing with Facebook

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