12.
Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat
(Lasiorhinus krefftii)
CR
Overview
This heavily-built marsupial is the largest known herbivorous burrowing mammal. It has a distinctive broad muzzle covered in fine hairs, and powerful limbs for burrowing. Nocturnal and mostly solitary, the wombat spends its days in a burrow and comes out at night to feed on grass. The species has suffered greatly since European settlement. It has lost much of its habitat to farming, and is predated by introduced mammals such as dingos. Today only a single colony remains, protected by a dingo-proof fence.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Support for existing conservation programmes.
Distribution
Queensland, Australia.
Media from ARKive
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat
ARKive video - Northern hairy-nosed wombat - overview
ARKive video - Northern hairy-nosed wombat conservation news item
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat walking
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat in trap
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat, sole of hind foot
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat with scientist
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat with scientist
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat with scientist
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat burrow entrance
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat burrow
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat burrow
ARKive image - Typical habitat of northern hairy-nosed wombat
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat habitat in dry season
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat habitat in wet season
ARKive image - Northern hairy-nosed wombat droppings
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Diprotodontia
Family: Vombatidae
Wombats belong to their own family, Vombatidae, which contains two genera and three species: Vombatus ursinus (common wombat), Lasiorhinus latifrons (southern hairy-nosed wombat), and Lasiorhinus krefftii (northern hairy-nosed wombat). The nearest living relative to the wombat is the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), but they are not closely related. Together, these four species form the suborder Vombatiformes, one of the three great lineages of marsupial herbivores. This group diverged from other marsupial herbivores at least 40 million years ago.
Description
Size: 
Head and body length
Male: 1079 mm
Female: 1081 mm
Tail length: 25-60 mm
Weight: Male: 31.0 kg
Female: 31.9 kg
The northern hairy-nosed wombat is the largest of the three wombat species. It is a strong, heavily built marsupial, with short powerful legs and strong claws that are used to dig burrows. The fur is soft and silky, and brown or silver-grey in colour, with darker rings around the eyes. The wombat’s ears are long and slightly pointed, and its broad muzzle is covered in fine whiskers (hence the common name). Female wombats have pouches which are backwards-opening so they do not fill up with earth when the animals are digging.
Ecology
Wombats are adapted to hot, dry climates by minimizing the amount of time spent above ground. The species is predominantly nocturnal, spending the day in a burrow and coming out at night to feed on various species of grass. It has a very low water requirement, and obtains most of the water it needs from its food. Wombats build large complex tunnel systems consisting of a number of multi-entrance burrows which are used by groups of 4-5 individuals. The burrows are collectively known as a warren and the entrances are connected above ground by a network of trails. Despite this, the animals are generally solitary. Individuals rarely share their burrows and each wombat possesses its own feeding area.

Females give birth to a single young, usually during the wet season (November to March). The young wombat stays in its mother’s pouch for 8-9 months, follows her closely for another 3-6 months, and is probably fully independent by about 18 months of age. The inter-birth period is usually 1-2 years, but females give birth less often during periods of drought. The species is long-lived for its size, with wild adults reaching ages of 23 years or more.
Habitat
Preferred habitats are flat semi-arid grasslands and open acacia or eucalypt woodlands. Deep sandy soil is required for digging burrows.
Distribution
Endemic to Australia, the species was originally found in two locations in Queensland and one in New South Wales. There is currently just one population remaining, situated in 500 ha of Epping Forest National Park in central Queensland.
Population Estimate

At last count, in 2007, there were only 138 individuals living in a single isolated population in Central Queensland, Australia.

Population Trend
Population size fell to around 35 individuals in the early 1980s. Since then numbers have been slowly recovering as a result of conservation efforts. The population has been dominated by males, but the latest census in 2005 showed that female numbers were recovering with 62 males and 53 females recorded. Only about 35 females are of breeding age.
Status
The rarest Australian marsupial, the species is classified as Critically Endangered B1ab(iii) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Threats
A combination of habitat loss, drought and competition with introduced grazing animals accelerated the species’ decline following European settlement. The species has also suffered considerable losses as a result of predation by dingoes, another introduced mammal. While most of these problems have now been addressed, the survival of the species is still uncertain. The greatest current threat is the fact that the wombats live in only one small population. This means that they are very vulnerable to natural events such as fire, drought, predators, disease or flooding, and inbreeding and consequent loss of genetic variation.
Conservation Underway

The species is listed on Appendix I of CITES. Epping Forest National Park was established in 1971 to protect the population, and numbers began to rise once cattle were excluded from the area in 1982. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has been running a major recovery plan since 1993, which involves conservation-orientated research and management programmes for the species. The wombats are currently protected from predators and competition with other grazing animals by a dingo-proof fence, and park wardens are working hard to improve habitat quality, provide supplementary feed and water, and protect the animals from natural disasters. Numbers are increasing as a result, but only very slowly. One of the aims of the recovery plan is the establishment of a second wild population within the species’ historical range. Research into captive breeding, translocation techniques and a search for potential habitats in which to establish this new population are currently underway.

In recent months selected individuals from the Central Queensland colony have been moved to a new location, the Richard Underwood Nature Reserve at Yarran Downs, St. George Queensland. These translocations will help save the wombat from further decline.

Conservation Proposed
The long-term aim of the recovery plan is to establish a network of populations throughout the historic range of the species. Over the next 15 years, it is envisaged that four separate colonies will be established in suitable habitat in Queensland. The reintroduction of wombats to a new site is a specific objective of the 2004-2008 recovery plan.

A successful trial translocation was conducted in 2006 within the dingo-proof fence at Epping Forest National Park. This trial has helped the development of techniques needed to establish a second wombat population.

After years of research, a suitable site, with the right soils, vegetation and landscape to support the wombat population, has been found near St George in southern Queensland. Using knowledge gained from the management of the Epping Forest National Park population and the trial move, the new release site will be suitably prepared before the wombats arrive at the new colony. Actions include installation of a predator-proof fence, supplementary feed and water stations and wombat monitoring equipment, management of competitors, fire management and weed control, and the preparation of wombat starter burrows. The reintroduction is planned to occur in the winter of 2009.

Other research has focused on increasing the population of wombats. Following an unsuccessful attempt to establish a captive breeding programme in 1996, researchers are now focusing on developing a captive breeding programme for the less endangered southern hairy-nosed wombat. It is hoped that the techniques developed here can be applied to the captive breeding of the northern species. Another project aims to develop techniques by which captive southern hairy-nosed wombats can be used as foster mothers for northern hairy-nosed wombat young. After rearing, the young could be released back into the wild population(s).
Links

The Wombat Foundation
Established in 2004, the Wombat Foundation aims to assist in the recovery and preservation of the northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, through promoting conservation-focussed research and raising awareness of the species.


Queensland Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA aims to promote sustainable use of its natural capital and ensure a clean environment. Key functions of the organisation are environmental planning, environmental policy, management of parks, forestry and wildlife, environmental operations, sustainable industries, environmental and technical services, corporate affairs, and corporate development.

References

Horsup, A. 2004. Recovery plan for the northern hairy-nosed wombat Lasiorhinus krefftii. 2004-2008. Report to the Department of Environment and Heritage, Canberra. Environmental Protection Agency/Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Brisbane.

Kennedy, M. 1992. Australasian Marsupials and Monotremes: An Action Plan for their Conservation. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

MacDonald, D. (ed.). 2002. The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Maxwell, S., Burbidge, A. A., Morris, K. and the IUCN/SSC Australasian Marsupial and Monotreme Specialist Group (eds.). 1996. The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. Wildlife Australia, Endangered Species Programme.

Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walkers Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

Taggart, D., Martin, R. & Horsup, A. 2008. Lasiorhinus krefftii. In: 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 2010.4. Downloaded on 12 November 2010.

Distribution map based on data provided by the IUCN Global Mammal Assessment.

if you can provide new information to update this species account or to correct any errors, please email us at info@edgeofexistence.org


Forum comments
  1. markS
    Member

    Great amount of information in this magnificent animal. Its terrible that they are considered endangered, because of the overgrazing of cattle and sheep along with droughts.
    Here is a nice page on Australia's current protection initiatives of the N. Hairy-Nosed Wombat: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/health plan/l-krefftii/index.html

    Posted 3 years ago #
  2. Anonymous
    Unregistered

    thank you for all this info. it is good to read that something is being done about the low numbers. it would be a shame if the northern hairy-nosed wombat became extict, especially if there was some way we could do to stop it.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  3. Anonymous
    Unregistered

    It's a great shame the northern hairy-nosed wombat receives far less press and support than other, far less endagered animals, for example koalas (don't get me wrong though- koalas also need help!). These wombats really need all the help we can give, and I was greatly encouraged to read that numbers have been raised in the last 20 years and that a translocation is planned later in this year.
    Great website, thank you.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  4. Anonymous
    Unregistered

    thanks for all the info!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted 5 years ago #

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