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Animals Dig Waterholes To Avoid Disease and Water Shortages During Dry Season

Nov 12, 2015 02:26 PM EST
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Elephants, plains zebras, warthogs and yellow baboons living within the Central Tanzania's Ruaha National Park routinely dig watering holes to beat the heat during the dry season. These holes also help them avoid illness from waterborne pathogens, a new study from the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) affirms.

The National Park covers a large area of tropical woodlands in Eastern and Southern Africa, where the dry season generally lasts from June through October. For their study, researchers observed animals along a 130 kilometer strip of the Great Ruaha River during three dry seasons from 2011 to 2013, according to the researcher's news release.

Such adaptation is particularly useful as for drinking and bathing as water becomes scarce and stagnant, a home to contamination from feces and urine that can longer be drained downstream. Animals are immune to their own bacteria but most are unaccustomed to fighting off bacteria and pathogens from other animals that spreasd via communal waterpools, so proprietary waterholes go a long way in keeping them healthy and alive.

Researchers noted their study highlights the importance of finding ways to maintain water flow – something that's becoming even more scarce as more and more water is used for agriculture upstream.

Their findings were recently published in the journal Mammalian Biology

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