Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Vombatus ursinus ursinus (Common Wombat (Bass Strait)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008fy) [Conservation Advice].
 
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Vombatus ursinus ursinus (Common Wombat (Bass Strait)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2012bh) [Listing Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.5 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011j) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
TAS:Common Wombat (Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (TAS DIPWE), 2009n) [Internet].
Scientific name Vombatus ursinus ursinus [66644]
Family Vombatidae:Diprotodonta:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Vombatus ursinus ursinus

Common name: Common Wombat (Bass Strait)

Other names: Flinders Island Wombat

Conventionally accepted as Vombatus ursinus ursinus (AFD 2010f).

The Common Wombat (Bass Strait) is a large, burrowing marsupial. It has long, coarse, thick fur which is brownish-grey to sandy-brown in colour, a short tail growing to 2.5 cm and a broad head with a large naked nose (Young 1980). Adults measure approximately 71–82 cm in length and weigh 15–22 kg. Sub-adults measure approximately 68–78 cm in length and generally weigh 10–15 kg (Green & Rainbird 1988).

There are two other subspecies of Vombatus ursinus, both of which are geographically isolated from the Common wombat (Bass Strait). These are the Common Wombat (Tasmania) (Vombatus ursinus tasmaniensis), which occurs in Tasmania, and the Mainland Common Wombat or Bare-nosed Wombat (V. u. hirsutus) which occurs in the south-east of the Australian mainland.

Current Distribution

The Common Wombat (Bass Strait) is endemic to Flinders Island, to the north-east of Tasmania in the Bass Strait (Rounsevell et al. 1991), without any significant fragmentation. The area of occupancy of the subspecies effectively corresponds to the extent of occurrence (i.e. 136 000 ha, the area of Flinders Island) (TSSC 2012bh).

Past Distribution

This subspecies previously occurred on King Island (west Bass Strait), Cape Barren Island, Deal Island and Clarke Island (Hope 1974a). It disappeared from King Island in the 19th century (Hope 1974b) and from the other islands by 1910 (Hope 1974a). There is no evidence of past declines in abundance on Flinders Island.

The subspecies' past extent of occurrence is estimated as the extent of the Bass Strait islands) The subspecies is now extinct from: King Island (109 143 ha), Cape Barren island (46 193 ha), Deal Island (1567 ha) and Clarke Island (8176 ha), representing a total of 165 079 ha. As such, the Common Wombat (Bass Strait) is now extinct from 55% of its previous range (Wapstra 2006).

There have been few formal surveys for the Common Wombat on the Bass Strait islands. McLaren (1966) reports on a brief survey conducted in March 1965 on Flinders Island. This was part of a broader study of the biology of the Common Wombat, which included mapping the distribution of the species in relation to geography and vegetation types. Green and Rainbird (1988) reported on various aspects of the biology and ecology of the subspecies. This study was based on 77 wombats collected mainly from pastoral properties and road killed animals. The Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas DPIPWE) have conducted regular spotlight surveys on the island since 1991 and, while these surveys are mainly targeted at possums and wallabies, wombat numbers are also recorded (Driessen & Hocking 1992).

The population on Flinders Island is estimated to be approximately 4000 individuals (Maxwell et al. 1996). Green and Rainbird (1988) indicate that there has probably been a great increase in the numbers of wombats during the 1960s—1980s due to land management activities.

Whilst historical evidence indicates that there has been a decline in the total population due to the extinction of the subspecies from other Bass Strait islands (Hope 1974a), there is no data to indicate any major changes in numbers on Flinders Island and extreme fluctuations are considered unlikely.

In the absence of data on the presence of the subspecies in any particular reserve, it is assumed that the subspecies is potentially present in all reserves on Flinders Island due to its wide distribution and habitat requirements. The following reserves gazetted under the Nature Conservation Act 2002 are present on the island (with extent of the reserve shown in hectares):

  • Brougham Sugarloaf Conservation Area (1222)
  • Darling Range Conservation Area (5479)
  • Egg Beach Conservation Area (15)
  • Emita Nature Recreation Area (123)
  • Foochow Conservation Area (5888)
  • Jacksons Cove Conservation Area (157)
  • Killiecrankie Nature Recreation Area (844)
  • Lackrana Conservation Area (857)
  • Lime Pit Road Conservation Area (30)
  • Logan Lagoon Conservation Area (4865)
  • Logan Lagoon State Reserve (73)
  • Low Point Conservation Area (220)
  • Mount Tanner Nature Recreation Area (4226)
  • Mulligans Hill Conservation Area (1178)
  • North East River Game Reserve (2554)
  • Palana Beach Nature Recreation Area (60)
  • Patriarchs Conservation Area (4052)
  • Sellars Lagoon Game Reserve (7829)
  • Shag Lagoon Conservation Area (1009)
  • Strzelecki National Park (7633)
  • Summer Camp Conservation Area (46)
  • The Dutchman Conservation Area (186)
  • unnamed conservation area (532)
  • Wingaroo Nature Reserve (9403).

There is an additional 945 ha of Flinders Island gazetted as unnamed public reserves under the Crown Lands Act 1998 (Tasmania). None of these reserves are actively managed for the subspecies but proposed activities within reserves are subject to the Tasmanian Reserve Management Code of Practice (Tas. PWS 2003). Seven private property reserves established under the Nature Conservation Act 2002 (some through the Private Forest Reserves Program), totaling 328 ha, are also present on Flinders Island. All areas of private property, subject to a conservation covenant under the Nature Conservation Act 2002 (Tasmania), are required to implement relevant environmental management plans (Tas. DPIWE 1998).

The Common Wombat (Bass Strait) inhabits heath, grassy woodlands and pasturelands with predominantly introduced grass species (Green & Rainbird 1988; Maxwell et al. 1996; McLaren 1966).

The subspecies occurs in a wide range of vegetation types, several of which are considered Threatened by Tasmanian state authorities (Tas. DPIWE 2005). Vegetation types include Allocasuarina littoralis forest, Banksia marginata wet scrub, Eucalyptus globulus dry forest and woodland, Eucalyptus ovata forest and woodland, Eucalyptus viminalis - Eucalyptus globulus coastal forest and woodland, Eucalyptus viminalis Furneaux forest and woodland, heathland on calcarenite and heathland scrub complex at Wingaroo.

McLaren (1966) reported "wombat water holes" behind sand dunes in the south-east of the island and suggests they may have been dug by wombats to obtain drinking water. Green and Rainbird (1988) reported somewhat similar features.

Breeding for the Common Wombat (Bass Strait) is seasonal and births occur in the seven-month period between mid-January and the last week of August (Green & Rainbird 1988). This is in marked contrast to the breeding biology of the Tasmanian and mainland subspecies, where births were found to occur throughout the year (Green & Rainbird 1987). There is no information available on breeding success or conditions required for breeding. However, it has been noted that it is unlikely that the subspecies exhibits any breeding behaviour that would make it vulnerable to any particular threatening process.

The generation length of the Common Wombat (Bass Strait), based on information from the Tasmanian subspecies (V. u. tasmaniensis) is between two (approximate time at first breeding) and five years (approximate lifespan of adults in the wild) (Green & Rainbird 1987).

The Common Wombat (Bass Strait) is entirely herbivorous, feeding on plant material such as grasses, sedges and herbs; especially on young plants (Green & Rainbird 1988). Feeding occurs mainly at dusk and dawn, and throughout the night, though the species may also feed during the day, especially in cooler weather (Green & Rainbird 1988).

During the day, Common Wombat (Bass Strait) individuals sleep in a nest of vegetation in one of several burrows, constructed by the same or other wombats, within its home range (Green & Rainbird 1988). At night, and occasionally during the day, it will move over a large area to graze (Green & Rainbird 1988). The subspecies does not have seasonal patterns of movement.

The Common Wombat (Bass Strait) is a virtually exclusive nocturnal species so spotlighting is regarded as the most suitable method of detecting the species. Surveys can be conducted at any time of the year. There are no specific methods for conducting spotlight surveys for this subspecies other than those indicated by Driessen and Hocking (1992) (involving roadline spotlight surveys) and the multiple references to the subspecies in the Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatenes Mammals: EPBC Act Survey Guidelines 6.5 (DSEWPaC 2011j).

There are no similar species on Flinders Island, however the Bass Strait subspecies is generally smaller than the Tasmanian and mainland forms of the species (Green & Rainbird 1988; Young 1980). No genetic studies of this subspecies have been published.

Identified Threats

Roadkill

Flinders Island has a high level of roadkill, including wombats. It is estimated that roadkill may account for hundreds of deaths annually. This threat impacts on all parts of the population, particularly those parts close to main roads (TSSC 2012bh).

Disease

Bryant and Jackson (1999b) cite disease as one of the "key threats" to the subspecies. The disease that specifically affects the subspecies is sarcoptic mange (or scabies), caused by the scabies or itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei). Martin and colleagues (1998) report that sarcoptic mange occurs in Common Wombat populations throughout its range including Tasmania and Flinders Island. While mange epizootics are sporadic, they have the potential to threaten the long-term survival of small, remnant populations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the disease can cause significant morbidity and mortality and can have a substantial effect on local abundance. It has been suggested that the subspecies suffers < 100 deaths annually due to the disease (Hocking cited in TSSC 2012bh).

Potential Threats

Habitat Loss (Land Clearance)

Extensive areas of Flinders Island have been cleared for agricultural purposes, although the impact this clearing has had on the wombat is unclear. This process may have actually increased abundance, through the creation of ideal grazing habitat (Green & Rainbird 1988). Clearing of habitat must be regarded as a potential threat to any part of the population on private property, especially those without conservation covenants. Approximately 328 ha of private property on the island is secured through conservation covenants (Wapstra 2006).

Shooting and Poisoning

Bryant and Jackson (1999) cite shooting and poisoning as two of the "key threats" to the subspecies. A permit is required to undertake culling for the purposes of crop protection under Regulation 13 of the Wildlife Regulations 1999. Illegal shooting and poisoning may still take place and is likely to affect those parts of the subspecies which occur on privately owned agricultural land. It is unknown what the effect of this threat has been historically, or what it is likely to be in the future (TSSC 2012bh).

Historic Threats

Exploitation

The decline of the subspecies throughout most of its range (including other Bass Strait islands) by the late 1890s was probably due, at least in part, to it being a source of meat for sealers and early settlers (Bryant & Jackson 1999b).

Commonwealth Conservation Advice

Refer to the Commonwealth Conservation Advice (TSSC 2008fy) for information on research priorities and recovery priority actions to mitigate threats including habitat loss, disturbance and modification, and the development and implementation of hygiene disease controls. Possible reintroductions of the Common Wombat (Bass Strait) to historic Bass Strait Island locations is also proposed in the Advice.

Management documents for the Common Wombat (Bass Strait) (Vombatus ursinus ursinus) can be found at the start of this profile.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation Tasmania's Threatened Fauna Handbook: What, Where and How to Protect Tasmania's Threatened Animals (Bryant, S. & J. Jackson, 1999b) [Book].
Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Vombatus ursinus ursinus (Common Wombat (Bass Strait)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008fy) [Conservation Advice].
Biological Resource Use:Hunting and Collecting Terrestrial Animals:Direct exploitation by humans including hunting Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Vombatus ursinus ursinus (Common Wombat (Bass Strait)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008fy) [Conservation Advice].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Recreational Activities:shooting Tasmania's Threatened Fauna Handbook: What, Where and How to Protect Tasmania's Threatened Animals (Bryant, S. & J. Jackson, 1999b) [Book].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Presence of pathogens and resulting disease Tasmania's Threatened Fauna Handbook: What, Where and How to Protect Tasmania's Threatened Animals (Bryant, S. & J. Jackson, 1999b) [Book].
Vombatus ursinus ursinus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006wo) [Internet].

Australian Faunal Directory (AFD) (2010f). Subspecies Vombatus ursinus ursinus (Shaw, 1800). [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/online-resources/fauna/afd/taxa/Vombatus_ursinus_ursinus. [Accessed: 17-Apr-2011].

Bryant, S. & J. Jackson (1999b). Tasmania's Threatened Fauna Handbook: What, Where and How to Protect Tasmania's Threatened Animals. Hobart, Tasmania: Threatened Species Unit, Parks and Wildlife Service.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011j). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.5. [Online]. EPBC Act policy statement: Canberra, ACT: DSEWPAC. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/threatened-mammals.html.

Driessen, M.M. & G.J. Hocking (1992). Review and Analysis of Spotlight Surveys in Tasmania:1975-1990. Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage, Hobart, Australia.

Green, R.H. & J.L. Rainbird (1987). The common wombat Vombatus ursinus (Shaw, 1800) in northern Tasmania - Part 1. Breeding, growth and development. Records of the Queen Victoria Museum. 91:1-19.

Green, R.H. & J.L. Rainbird (1988). The common wombat Vombatus ursinus (Shaw, 1800) in northern Tasmania - Part 2. The Bass Strait population, V. ursinus ursinus. Records of the Queen Victoria Museum. 92.

Hope, J.H. (1974a). The biogeography of the mammals of the islands of Bass Strait. In: Illies, J., ed. Monographiae Biologicae : Biogeography and Ecology in Tasmania. 25:397-415. Dr. W.Junk: The Hague.

Hope, J.H. (1974b). Mammals of the Bass Strait Islands. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria. 85:163-195.

Martin, R.W., K.A. Handasyde & L.F. Skerratt (1998). Current distribution of sarcoptic mange in wombats. Australian Veterinary Journal. 76:411-414.

Maxwell, S., A.A. Burbidge & K. Morris (1996). The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. [Online]. Wildlife Australia, Environment Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/action-plan-australian-marsupials-and-monotremes.

McLaren, W.D. (1966). The Flinders Island wombat. Wildlife in Australia. 3(4):110-113.

Rounsevell, D.E., R.J. Taylor, & G.J. Hocking (1991). Distribution records of native terrestrial mammals in Tasmania. Wildlife Research. 18:699-717.

Tasmania Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIWE) (1998). Strategic plan for the private land component of the CAR reserve system. Hobart, Tasmania: Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment.

Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (Tas DPIWE) (2005). Threatened Native Vegetation Communities List (Version 6.0) November 2005. [Online]. Available from: http://www.dpiwe.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/WebPages/AWAH-6547ZL?open.

Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (Tas. PWS), Forestry Tasmania & Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (2003). Tasmanian Reserve Management Code of Practice. Hobart: Department of Tourism, Parks, Heritage and the Arts.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (2008fy). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Vombatus ursinus ursinus (Common Wombat (Bass Strait)). [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/66644-conservation-advice.pdf.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2012bh). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Vombatus ursinus ursinus (Common Wombat (Bass Strait)). [Online]. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Canberra, ACT: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/66644-listing-advice.pdf.

Wapstra, M. (2006). Vombatus ursinus ursinus - Species Information Sheet. Provided to the Department of Environment and Heritage.

Young, G.E. (1980). Geographic variation in the common wombat, Vombatus ursinus (Shaw, 1800). Victorian Naturalist. 97:200-204.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Vombatus ursinus ursinus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Mon, 22 Sep 2014 15:42:50 +1000.