Australia’s common wombat could soon be uncommon.
I wanted to write a blog about wombats because I have only seen one alive wombat in a nature reserve since I arrived here, but on the contrary, I’ve seen many dead wombats on the road, killed by cars and trucks, which is heartbreaking. So, this initiative triggered an in-depth investigation into wombats; I wanted to know if they are threatened and how we can help.
I would like to start giving you some general info about the wombat, such as where they live, when they eat and sleep, how their scat is, spoiler alert, it is a cube!!
Wombats are marsupials with brown, tan, or grey fur, and from their stubby tails to their large skulls, they can measure 1.3m long and weigh 36kg.
Wombats are the Koala’s closest living relative. They are endemic to Australia and are among the largest burrowing mammals in the world. Its solitary, nocturnal nature makes the wombat a rare sight for people in the wild. They prefer wet, forested areas with slopes (for good burrow drainage). Common wombats inhabit the south-eastern coastal regions of Australia, including eastern New South Wales, eastern and southern Victoria, south-eastern South Australia, and the whole of Tasmania.
Wombats are territorial animals. They mark their home range by grunting at intruders, rubbing their scent on trees, and scattering cube-shaped droppings. The unique shape of their dung helps keep the markings in place around their territory. But why cubes? Wombats have a very long digestive process that usually takes 14 to 18 days. It has a very long digestive tract to absorb the most nutrients and water possible, which means its digestive matter is dehydrated and compacted.
Wombats likely play an essential role in maintaining ecosystem functioning, particularly by impacting soil nutrition.
All wombats are protected as they are native Australian animals by law in Australia, except in Victoria, where they are viewed as vermin because they destroy rabbit-proof fences. Some species of wombat, like the Southern hairy-nosed wombat, are endangered in NSW.
Now, I would like to talk about the threats that they have to deal with, like roadkill, habitat destruction, shooting, poisoning (humans are wombat’s greatest enemy), and of course, climate change, drought, fire, flooding, and disease epidemic as mange.
Habitat loss, destruction, and competition for food with introduced herbivores – rabbits, cattle, sheep, and goats – are now the biggest threats for wombats. Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats never venture far from their burrows to feed. When overgrazing removes all pasture from around their burrows, they starve.
Many wombats suffer from mange caused when mites burrow under the wombat’s skin, Mange is sometimes spread by foxes and dogs, and it can also kill entire colonies. Symptoms include fur loss, crusty and itchy skin, constant thirst and hunger, diminished vision, and hearing. If left untreated, mange can result in a slow, painful death.
Biologist Erin Roger of the Australian Wetlands and Rivers Centre at the University of New South Wales has studied how many wombats are killed by cars and trucks in New South Wales (NSW). According to her research, at least 3,000 common wombats die annually on NSW highways. This represents a shocking 13.6 percent of the total common wombat population.
And finally, what we can do to help them survive so the next generation would enjoy it.There are several things we can do to save wombats.
First, we can help protect the remaining wombat habitat by supporting more frequent thinnings of pine plantations. Pine forests block out the sunlight required for vegetation to grow that wombats graze on. Furthermore, wombats are killed before planting new pine trees, and their burrows are destroyed when deep plowing occurs. Scaling back dense pine forests while preserving existing eucalyptus forests allows for more ideal living conditions to exist for wombats. Secondly, we can support organizations that have programs to heal wombat mange. For instance, WIRES has a great program to treat wombat we can donate and help them. Thirdly, my suggestion is to avoid driving from sunset to sunrise because, as I mentioned before, the wombat is nocturne animals who eat and move during nighttime. I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I do writing it.