Do Wombats Need Protection?
of Legislative Protection/Enforcement.
In Australia native animals are “the property of the Crown”. This means
that no-one owns wombats, they can’t be kept as pets and to do anything
with them you have to be licensed by government departments.
Government Departments do little to protect or help wombats. Most research
and all welfare (rescuing injured wombats, raising the joeys of mothers
killed in collisions with vehicles, removing wombats from unsuitable places)
is undertaken by voluntary organizations.
While penalties exist if someone is found to hurt or kill a wombat, the
same government departments charged with wombat care issue permits to
farmers to cull wombats. Sadly, there is often no check whether this is
necessary, whether it is done humanely or any insistence that alternative
options be employed before issuing such permits.
On the other hand although penalties exist for the illegal killing of
wombats, such killing occurs every night where on a farms they are shot,
buried alive and gassed and on the highways of Australia vehicles indiscriminately
drive directly at wombats without penalty.
Live joeys left in their dead mother’s pouches die slowly and a lack of
public education means few Australians understand how to rescue a joey
still living after its mother falls victim to road kill.
failure by all Australian Federal State and Local Governments to adequately
research and protect wombats from such fates in the areas where they remain
combined with Government sanctioned logging practices in forests (which
see their burrows ripped up and logging trucks on the road at night when
wombats come out to eat), lead to multiple wombat deaths. All these practices
and failures continue today.
At the same time, there are few behavioral studies undertaken to help
people understand why wombats do what they do. They will go under a fence
in one spot and back through the fence the other way less than a metre
from the first spot (they follow scent trails but can learn to use wombat
Many farmers and others who resort to unnecessary cruelty do so because
they aren’t assisted manage problem issues like burrow digging near infrastructure.
Research into wombat behavior is unfunded. There are no incentives or
subsidies for people to set aside appropriate habitat for wombats Lack
of research and education causes these incredibly beautiful, harmless
nocturnal marsupials to be misunderstood and not appreciated for their
important role in the Australian ecology.
Impact and Disease
impact on the wombat population is now at a critical level. Wombats suffer
from a disease called mange that was introduced to Australia and to wombats
by human activity. Mites that cause mange lead to deep skin fissures that
become flyblown and septic. This leads to a long, slow and painful death
for wombats. In addition they are also being affected by a fungal lung
disease for which there is currently no cure. Diseases and viruses brought
in by farming activity now affect wombats. Incidents of coccidia, clostridium
perfringens and tetanus amongst others ,are evident in wombats. Some people
believe that the distribution of mange is so widespread that only isolated
populations and those tended in sanctuaries will, in the long term survive.
It is only recently that Veterinarians have begun to receive training
in dealing with native animal health. Behavioural studies on wombats are
few and limited in their scope. As a result wombats are misunderstood
and those attempting to rear and rehabilitate injured and orphaned wombats
have difficulty getting them appropriate medical attention and in helping
others understand the best ways of living with wombats.
Habitat destruction is having a major impact on wombat numbers as well.
Water sources and grazing areas being fenced into farms and out of public
lands limits the suitable range for wombats to a small strip of land.
Although Australia is a big country there are few areas where wombats
can live undisturbed. They are restricted to a small section of the east
coast of Australia. Unless they are fully protected their limited distribution
will reduce further. This is already evident in the northern Hairy Nose
Wombat whose numbers are so low that the species is severely threatened
and without human intervention will become extinct.
You Can Do ?
can give permission to include your name and contact details for the Register
of environmental organizations.
You can spread the word about the society and elect to be sent email updates
that you can share with interested parties who don’t have computer access.
You can help by volunteering particular skills you have. You can contribute
pictures, information and references to resources that can help those
involved in the care and protection of wombats.
You can assist by helping to develop the children’s involvement by suggesting
web based activities, games and fundraising ideas suitable for children.
(This is something that the webmaster is presently struggling with. Please
contact the webmaster directly if you can support the society in this
You can put anyone you know who might be interested in sponsoring or bequeathing
a legacy, in contact with the Society.
Courtesy L Dennis