I’m excited for this blog because it brings together two of my favorite things which are implied in the title: water (the “wet”) and animals (the “wild”). We frequently talk about the importance of conserving our natural resources and working toward water sustainability as it relates to human life. We also occasionally explore the importance of this topic when it comes our domestic animals—our dogs, cats, cows, chickens and so forth. But today, I’d like to look at animals in the wild and offer another powerful reason for you to conserve water, preserve our water resources and support programs helping to ensure that our two-legged and four-legged, furry and feathered friends have reliable access to the water they need to live and thrive.
Let’s start with the animals most like us—primates. Interesting fact about our friend the gorilla: They cannot swim, so they shy away from water sources for drinking. However, this doesn’t mean water isn’t vital to them—they rely on the morning dew for hydration. Moreover, about half of the 40 pounds of vegetation a day consumed by an adult gorilla consists of water. Many other primates follow suit, getting most of their water from the plants they consume.
Next, let’s look at the deer family. Those whitetails, which most of us are familiar with, require 3 quarts of water per day for every 100 pounds of body weight. So, taking the range from an average female to a male, we’re looking at 3.25 to 6.0 quarts of water per day per deer. If you look at the population of just whitetail deer in just the U.S., that’s more than 33 million gallons of water per day for drinking…and we haven’t even discussed caribou, moose, gazelles and the like!
How about Dumbo? Another fun fact: An elephant can hold up to 2.75 gallons of water in its trunk. They use this water to drink, bathe and cool off. If we look at drinking alone, an elephant—of which there are about 650,000 worldwide—can drink up to 50 gallons of water per day, enough to fill your average bathtub.
Even the seemingly “little” wildlife, such as finches or cardinals on our feeder, need water to survive. Unlike a lot of other wildlife, birds get very little of their required water intake from food, meaning they need to drink several times a day. On average, a bird needs to drink 5% of its body weight in water every day to stay healthy.
These are just a few examples of water intake for just a few species—needless to say, every species needs water to survive. We also have to consider the other vital benefits that water provides for wildlife. Think about all the piscivores—from bears to jaguars, seagulls to turtles—that depend on fish-laden water sources as their main food supplier. Then there is water’s role in wildlife bathing. Water is also necessary for cooling. Especially in hot African and Asian environments, if water isn’t around to keep animals’ body temperatures down, they will die. As mentioned above, water in the form of rain and irrigation is essential for the growth of all the vegetation on which wildlife survives.
So the next time your turn on Discovery or Nat Geo and observe the beautiful creatures of planet Earth, remember how your water conservation efforts impact all of them. We all need to do our part to keep our planet “wet” for the sake of preserving “the wild”!