Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team
Date: October 22, 2022 11:08 pm
There are three species of wombat with all of them living in Australia.
The common wombat is found in Australia’s southeast and on the island of Tasmania. The southern-hairy nosed wombat is found primarily in arid regions of South Australia but isolated reports of them exist from New South Wales and Western Australia. The most endangered species is the northern hairy-nosed wombat. This species is found at only two sites in Queensland.
All wombats are marsupials. A marsupial is an animal which raises a joey in a pouch. Unlike most marsupials, the pouch of the wombat opens backwards. This stops the pouch from being filled with dirt and debris while they work to dig their burrows.
Starting life the size of a jellybean, the joey will spend between 9 and 10 months growing in the pouch before they emerge for the first time.
Wombats spend their life underground in a complex network of burrows. These include a range of chambers connected by tunnels with some networks extending for up to 150m.
They have large front claws to dig and the strong back legs will then push the soil out as they continue to work their way down. This species is an efficient digger with the ability to move 1 metre of dirt per night.
Common wombats maintain their own burrow but the southern hairy-nosed wombat has been known to welcome up to a dozen roommates.
Their poo is square! Wombats can take up to 18 days to fully digest their meal. During this process they extract almost all of the nutrients and water which is found in the food. This leads to the compacted poo coming out in the square shape.
The northern hairy-nosed wombat is one of the world’s most endangered mammals. At one point their numbers dropped to just 35 individuals in a single population. Recovery efforts have since seen a second population established and there are now over 100 individuals. There is still a long way to go in the recovery of the species.
Their decline was brought about through persecution by farmers who believed wombats destroyed their crops with 1000s being hunted. Unfortunately this persecution continues to this day with some wombat populations being destroyed through being buried alive in their burrows.
Wombats have large teeth which will grow through their entire life. These sharp teeth help them to cut through the vegetation which they feed on. Most of their diet is grass but this may be supplemented with roots and sedges.
With their short legs and sturdy body it would be fair to think the wombat may waddle its way through life. Instead these animals are super sprinters able to reach speeds of up to 40km/h when moving across short distances.
If they can’t outrun their predators they are able to put up a fight. When threatened they dive head first in to their burrow. Their rump features a hard, bony plate which helps to prevent damage by predators.
If this doesn’t deter the threat they are able to crush it against the roof of their burrow with the assistance of the hard plate on the rump.
They don’t just come in one colour. While it is most common for all three species of wombat to have a coat of light brown fur covering most of their body some populations have unique fur colours.
One of the most prominent examples of this is a population in South Australia with a caramel or golden fur colour as seen in the image at the bottom of the page. This coloration is rare as it makes them more susceptible to predators.
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