Common Wombat (Vombatus Ursinus)
There are three different kinds of wombat. There is the Common Wombat (Vombatus Ursinus), which lives in the south-eastern part of Australia, from
southern Queensland, into Tasmania, and west through to South Australia. It
doesn’t usually live in the inland, though, as it enjoys living in hilly country
where there is a lot of suitable soil for burrowing, and also plenty of grazing
area. Its Latin name comes from “Vombatus”, an Aboriginal name for “wombat”, and
“Ursinus”, from the Latin “bear”.
Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus Latrifrons)
Then there is the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus Latrifrons), which
is classified as endangered, and lives in South and Western Australia, and
rarely in the arid parts of New South Wales, as this species enjoys the arid
Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus Krefftii)
Finally, there is the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus Krefftii). Fossils
indicate that they were once widespread in New South Wales; however these
wombats are now on the brink of extinction (only about 110 individuals are
left), and only live in one forest in Queensland, which is just over 300
hectares. The name of this species and the Southern Hairy-nosed wombat comes
from the fact that their muzzles are covered in short brown hair. They also have
black markings over their eyes, and white fur on their ears. This species is the
largest of all the wombats.
Early Australian settlers believed that wombats were related to the badgers
of Europe. As is now known, this is not the case. Their closest relative is the
koala. They are the largest burrowing marsupials (and possibly the largest
burrowing mammals) in the world. A wombat’s rump has very thick skin on it, so
if threatened, they run into their burrow and use their rump as a barrier to
stop the predator from following.
Gestation and the young
Wombats, like all marsupials, carry their young in a pouch. However, unlike a
kangaroo or wallaby, the pouch faces backwards. One theory about why this is so
is so that the mother wombat doesn’t kick soil into the pouch. Though there are two
nipples in the pouch, usually only one baby, called a joey, is raised at a time.
Gestation for wombats, like most marsupials, is very short, only one month. A
newborn wombat is only 3 cm long, blind and hairless, and weighs a mere 1 gram.
The joey stays in its mother’s pouch for 8 to 10 months, but sometimes suckles
for up to 15 months, and stays with its mother for around a year after leaving
the pouch. It is mature, and therefore can breed, at around 2 - 3 years old.
mature wombat is about 1 metre from nose to tail, and weighs about between 20
and 40 kg. Captive wombats have been known to live up to 20 years. They have
poor eyesight, but an excellent sense of hearing and smell. A strange thing
about Common Wombats is that they can actually curl their front paws into fists
and grab things.
In the wild, the only real predators of wombats are dingoes, although in
Tasmania eagles and Tasmanian Devils have been known to prey on young or weak
wombats. However, farmers consider them pests, as they can ruin fences, and
livestock often injures itself by stepping in the burrows. The burrows also
provide shelter for one of the worst introduced pets, the rabbit. Unfortunately,
for these reasons, many farmers want to get rid of wombats off their properties.
Sometimes, too, they are also accidentally poisoned with baits intended for
rabbits or wallabies. Luckily for them, though, they have been a protected
species in New South Wales since 1970. They still have to compete with
introduced animals, such as rabbits, cattle and sheep for food, though.
So all in all, so long as you don’t get too close, wombats definitely are the
cute and cuddly animals you probably imagine them to be.
Some unusual facts…
- Wombats can swim
- Wombats enjoy a dust bath
- Wombats have been nicknamed “bush bulldozers”
- Their teeth are like rodent’s teeth; they grow constantly
- A wombat can survive a small to medium bushfire by going deep into its
burrow until the fire has passed
- Tasmanian and Flinders Island wombats are smaller than mainland wombats
- Common wombats can climb fences