Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria

Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat Fact Sheet

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Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat
Lasiorhinus krefftii

Of the three species of wombat, the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat is the largest. The other two wombat species are the Common Wombat and the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat. It is believed that the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat has the smallest living population of any large mammal on earth. There are only 60 to 70 individuals left in the wild making them critically endangered. This small colony is located in Queensland. Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats are roughly one metre in length from head to tail. The tail is short measuring less than 5cm. The weight of this marsupial is generally between 20 to 40kg. They are brownish-grey in colour with much softer and silkier fur than the Common Wombat. The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat also differs from the Common Wombat by having longer ears and, of course, a hairier and wider nose a bit like a pigís snout.

Breeding and Lifecycle
A female will give birth to a single young, called a joey, once a year. The newly born joey will slowly climb into its motherís pouch using its claws. When born it is very small, roughly the size of a jelly bean and pink in colour. The motherís pouch opens backwards to prevent soil or dirt collecting in the pouch when she is digging or moving through the burrow. To stop the joey from falling out of the pouch, the teat or nipple the joey suckles on will swell up in its mouth making it almost impossible for the newly born to unattach. The total time the joey spends in the pouch is around 10 to 11 months. After leaving the pouch, the joey follows its mother around for about two years.

Habitat and Distribution
The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat seems to prefer semi-arid grasslands where there are many eucalypt trees. The last existing colony is only 15 square kilometres. The wombat is nocturnal spending the day in its burrow which is dug with strong powerful claws. The burrow is often strengthened by having the entrance next to a tree trunk. The burrow may have several entrances and for safety reasons the wombat does not move too far away from it. The length of a burrow can range up to 30m. Urine and dung mark the wombatís area and the scent is particularly strong at the burrow entrance.

The diet of this wombat consists mainly of grasses, plants and some herbs. At the front of its mouth the wombat has strong, sharp incisor, or cutting, teeth. At the back of the mouth it has flat, rootless teeth which grind up plant material. The teeth continue to grow throughout its life which means it must grind its teeth on bark to keep them short. The wombat locates its food by using its highly developed sense of smell. It will dig up roots to eat by using its strong claws.

Threats to Survival
The major decline of the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat is due to competition with cattle, sheep and rabbits for native grasses. The wombatís woodland habitat has been removed to allow cattle and sheep to graze and the replacement of native grasses with pasture grasses has not helped either. In some areas it is strongly believed the wombats were killed by a rabbit poisoning program.

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