Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat
Environment Australia, 1998
- Common names: Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, Queensland Hairy-nosed Wombat, Yaminon
- Scientific name: Lasiorhinus krefftii
- National conservation status: Endangered (likely to become extinct if threats continue)
- Size: 35 cm high, 1 m long
- Weight: up to 35 kg (Females slightly heavier than males)
The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat is a marsupial with a backward facing pouch. The curious name comes from its distinctive muzzle which is covered with short brown hairs. It is strong and heavily built, with short, powerful legs and strong claws that are used to dig burrows or search for suitable plants to eat. Its fur is soft, silky, and mainly brown, mottled with grey, fawn and black. It has a broad head, and the ears are long and slightly pointed with tufts of white hair on the edges.
Like most marsupials, the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat is active at night, usually at dawn or dusk. Although mostly solitary, wombats often share burrows. Each burrow has several entrances and contains moist air which stays at a constant temperature throughout the year. The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat eats native and introduced grasses and stays close to one of its many burrows. The wombat's teeth never stop growing, allowing it to grind its food even when old.
The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat gives birth to one young during the wet season (November - April). The young stay in the mothers pouch for eight to nine months. They leave their mother at about 15 months.
The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat once occurred near Deniliquin (New South Wales), on the Moonie River near St George (southern Queensland) and at Epping Forest near Clermont (central Queensland). Fossil records from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland show that they lived over a larger area, but probably not in high numbers. The last known colony of Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats is now restricted to 300 ha in Epping Forest National Park in central Queensland. The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat occurs along an ancient water course in the park where the soil is sandy and dry.
Their feeding areas contain native grasses, scattered eucalypts and acacias, and patches of scrub.
The wombats live in groups of large burrows usually located near trees.
Habitat loss and change, drought and competition with cattle, sheep and rabbits for food have contributed to the decline of the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat. Epping Forest National Park is now fenced to keep out cattle and sheep and will be fenced during 2002 to exclude dingoes which killed 10 northern hairy-nosed wombats during 2000-01. Introduced buffel grass, planted in the area for cattle feed, outcompetes the native grasses and forces the wombats to travel further to find the native species they prefer to eat. The small population of Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats that remains is susceptible to predation, fire and inbreeding.
Epping Forest National Park was established in 1971 to protect the habitat of the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat. Access into the Park is restricted to researchers and park managers. The park is protected from wildfires by fire breaks and patch burning of small areas. After the removal of cattle in 1982, wombat numbers increased from 35 to about 70 in 1989. Numbers remained steady during a major drought which spanned the first half of the 1990's. After several good years of rainfall, the population has increased to 110.
Programs to control buffel grass and improve the supply of native grasses are helping the wombats to move into other suitable habitats in the park. Management of Epping Forest National Park and ongoing research on the ecology of the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat also contribute to the long term conservation of this species. As well, a captive breeding program on the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat is currently under way. If this proves successful, it is hoped the techniques developed can be applied to the captive breeding of Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats.
There are three species of wombat in Australia. The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat is the largest. The other two are:
Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinis)
The Common Wombat occurs in southeastern Australia. It has coarser hair, a smaller tail and shorter, more rounded ears than the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat. It is nocturnal during the summer, but in winter it often comes out of its burrow during the day. Common Wombats breed at any time of the year. They live to 15 years in the wild, and up to 20 years in captivity.
Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons)
This species occurs in parts of southern South Australia, southeastern Western Australia and western Victoria. It is the smallest of the three wombats in Australia has red-brown fur and a shorter face. The Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat breeds from late September through to December.
- Flannery T (1990) Australia's Vanishing Mammals. R D Press, Sydney.
- Strahan R (1995) The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals. Angus and Robertson.
Queensland Government Department of Environment and Resource Management
PO Box 15155
CITY EAST QLD 4002
Phone: 1300 130 372
You can also find out more information about Australia's threatened species by calling the Department of the Environment and Heritage's Community Information Unit on free call 1800 803 772