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home -> wildlife -> species profiles -> mammals -> northern hairy-nosed wombat
MAMMALS
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Northern hairy-nosed wombat
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NORTHERN HAIRY-NOSED WOMBAT

Northern hairy-nosed wombat.
Photo © EPA / Darren Jew

(Lasiorhinus krefftii)

Also called Yaminon (Indigenous name from the region of St George, south-western Queensland)

Introduction

This is one of Australia’s rarest marsupials: the species is found in only one location in the wild; only 115 wombats were recorded in 2005; and none live in captivity.

Although once widespread in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, this wombat only lives in alluvial sand habitats, so the northern hairy-nosed wombat was probably always the least numerous of Australia’s three wombat species. At the time of European settlement, only three populations were recorded: near Deniliquin NSW; Moonie River near St George in Southern Queensland; and the Epping Forest of Central Queensland.

The Deniliquin and Moonie River populations became extinct in the early 1900s due to a combination of introduced grazing animals and drought. The remaining population at Epping Forest declined dramatically for similar reasons..

Description

  • Heavy-set and short-limbed with broad heads and short, strong legs and claws for burrowing
  • Up to 40kg with an average adult weight of 32kg
  • More than 1m long
  • Body covered in soft grey fur including its nose
  • The northern hairy-nosed wombat has longer and more pointed ears and a broader muzzle than the other two species.

Signs

  • Huge burrow entrances in sandy country, particularly sand ridges near rivers, often big enough to shelter a wallaby, with two to three runways leading into the entrance
  • Mounds of sand, 1m high and 2m across, outside burrow holes
  • Active burrows marked by dung piles and urine splashes on the mounds, runways and trails leading to the burrow.

Typical northern hairy-nosed wombat habitat.
Photo © Alan Horsup

Habitat

  • Semi-arid zone, deep sandy soils along shallow and vegetated dry creek beds and gullies
  • Major burrows usually close to trees.

Ecology

Life history

  • Groups of up to 10, equally divided by sex, live in grouped burrows with central permanent homes and temporary refuges around the perimeter of the complex.
  • Females share burrows but males live alone.
  • Females leave the range after weaning their young
  • Live at least 23 years in the wild.
  • Nocturnal. Live underground in burrow networks and avoid venturing above ground in harsh weather extremes because the burrows maintain a constant humidity and comfortable temperature range.

Breeding

Did you know…?

‘Joan’, a captive northern hairy-nosed wombat, was at least 27 years old when she died

  • Young are generally born during the wet season in November–April.
  • In good rainfall years, 50–80% females may breed each year and give birth to one baby at a time.
  • Young stay in the pouch for 8–9 months and are weaned at about 12 months.
  • After leaving the pouch at about 9 months, young stay in the burrow while their mothers go out to forage.

Food

  • Northern hairy-nosed wombats do not need to feed every day because they have a low metabolic rate compared to other marsupials.
  • Feed for an average 6 hours a night in winter and 2 hours in summer. Their conservative lifestyle and efficient digestive system enable them to make the most of this comparatively short feeding time (a similar-sized kangaroo feeds for 18 hours a day).
  • Main food is native grasses (black speargrass, bottle washer grasses, golden beard grass, and three-awned grass) plus introduced buffel grass. (Buffel grass has become a threat as it out-competes the native grasses and is fire prone and hard for the wombat to move around in.)
  • The wombats make the most of the nutrition they get from their diet. They eat the leaves of grass rather than stems and grind their food finely. Their teeth grow throughout their lives, so old wombats can eat as efficiently as younger animals.
  • Wombat intestines are long and contain large colonies of digestive microorganisms.

Northern hairy-nosed wombat distribution.

Home range

  • The wombats have small home ranges for their size, about 27ha.

Distribution

  • Only found in Epping Forest National Park (Scientific) in Central Queensland, west of Clermont. The park is about 3300ha and access is restricted to rangers and accredited researchers.

Threats

In order of severity:

  • Low numbers: the small total population makes the wombat vulnerable to any threat.
  • Drought: during recent drought episodes the wombats remained robust but stopped breeding.
  • Bushfire: the wombats stay safe in their burrows but the fire destroys the native grasses that are their main food.
  • Dingoes: the population of 113 was reduced to fewer than 90 by dingo predation during one 2-week period in 2000. A 20km predator fence was erected after this event.
  • Disease: Made worse by the small total population being confined to one small area.

Conservation

Status

Critically endangered (IUCN Red List) Endangered (Queensland Nature Conservation Act and federal EPBC Act)

Activities

  • Recovery plan for the Northern hairy-nosed wombat Lasiorhinus krefftii 2004–2008. The recovery plan includes communication and community involvement; increasing the current population’ establishing other wild populations within its historic range and cooperating with zoos to establish a captive husbandry program. Download the recovery plan.
  • Volunteer caretaker program. Volunteers monitor the population and keep the predator fence in good repair as well as other maintenance. Contact Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service in Rockhampton (07 4936 0511) for more information.
  • DNA fingerprint identification of wombat hairs. Allows some research to be carried out without an invasive trapping and radio-tracking program.

More information

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service - Central Coast Regional Centre Cnr Yeppoon and Norman Roads PO Box 3130 Rockhampton Shopping Fair Q 4701 wombat@epa.qld.gov.au ph 61 7 4936 0511 fax 61 7 4936 2171

New Home for Rare Wombats