Photo: Bare-nosed wombat at Brynmawr sanctuary - David and Suzanne Alder

This article featured in Wildlife Lands Issue 8

Several Wildlife Land Trust members are heavily involved in the rehabilitation and care of at least one of these species, and it can't help but be admitted that there is something about a wombat's stubbornness and determination that makes them an irresistible example of Australian fauna.

Formerly known as the common wombat, the bare-nosed wombat (Vombatus ursinus) is the most wide spread and abundant species of wombat. They are found throughout Tasmania, Victoria, and along the eastern ranges all the way through New South Wales and into Queensland.  Bare-nosed wombats are nocturnal and dig large burrows to sleep in during the day. These animals are often considered a pest by farmers due to their tendency to damage fences and dig burrows, however many subpopulations are considered valuable. Although widespread, these wombats are threatened due to habitat destruction, illegal shooting and diseases such as mange.

Southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons) are similar in size to their bare-nosed counterparts, but have softer grey fur, longer ears and a broader nose.  Their range is primarily in South Australia and south-eastern Western Australia, however small, endangered populations exist in pockets in south-west New South Wales. The species is under threat due to declining distribution range and population sizes, while low reproductive rates both in the wild and captivity are cause for concern.  As with the other two species, mange is a real problem for South Australia's faunal emblem.

Southern hairy-nosed wombat in care at WLT sanctuary Minton Farm

The plight of the northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii) is by far the most severe of the three species, being listed as Endangered under the Federal EPBC Act and classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.  Its range is all but restricted to just 300 hectares within the Epping Forest in central Queensland.  In the mid-1980s only 35 northern hairy-nosed wombats were believed to survive in this population, and although numbers had increased to 65 by the mid-1990s, the population was dominated by older animals and males outnumbered females two to one.  The most recent census was conducted in 2007, and produced a population estimate of 138 wombats at a near equal sex ratio.  Although more robust, having such a localised distribution leaves the fate of the northern hairy-nosed wombat precariously in the balance, susceptible should local disasters, such as bushfires, occur. To combat this possibility, selected individuals have been relocated to establish a new population in the Richard Underwood Nature Refuge in southern Queensland.

Many Wildlife Land Trust sanctuaries throughout Australia are home to wombat species. Refuges such as Cedar Creek Wombat Rescue, Rocklily Wombats, Minton Farm and Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary also specialise in the rescue and rehabilitation of wombats. WLT strongly supports the conservation of wombats in all areas and we believe that member sanctuaries are an important aspect to protecting this iconic species.

Young bare-nosed wombats in care at WLT sanctuary Rocklily