The following article is printed with special
thanks and appreciation to the Environmental
Protection Agency of the Queensland Parks and
The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat was known from
only three localities: Deniliquin, NSW; St.
and Epping Forest,
At the time of European settlement, the
species may already have been uncommon. It
is assumed that drought and grazing pressure
from cattle and sheep accelerated the species
decline and that it was extinct in the
Deniliquin and St. George areas by 1908.
The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat is now
restricted to a single population in Epping
Forest National Park near Claremont in Central
Queensland. At last count the population
contained 110 individuals.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has
produced a recovery plan for the Northern
hairy-nosed Wombat, which outlines the actions
needed to halt its decline and enhance the
chances for long term survival in the wild.
These actions are being implemented by QPWS as
part of a major recovery program to save the
Northern hairy-nosed Wombat.
The following provides information on the
Wombat, the threat to its survival and what is
being done to conserve the species.
Australia has three species of Wombat, the
Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, Lasiorhinus
krefftii the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat,
Lasiorhinus latifrons, and the Common
Wombat Vombatus ursinus. The
Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat is the largest of
the Wombats and the biggest burrowing mammal
in the world. This nocturnal marsupial,
with its silky grey fur and broad hairy nose,
can weigh up to 40kgs. Females are slightly
heavier than males. The two species of
hairy-nosed wombats are similar in appearance
but differ from the Common wombats by having
broader, hairy noses, silkier fur and longer
ears.* The Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat and
the Common Wombat are not found in the same
location as the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat.
Epping Forest national Park is semi-arid and
dominated by Brigalow, Acacia harpophylla
and Gidgee, Acacia cambagei on heavy
grey non-cracking soils. Deep alluvial sand
deposits are present along an ancient
watercourse, on the banks of which Wombats dig
burrows. Wombat habitat is dominated by
Long-fruited Bloodwood, Corymbia clarksonia,
Moreton Bay Ash, C. tessellaris and
Bauhinia, Lysiphyllum hookeri, with a
grassy ground cover.
In Summer months, Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats
will only leave their burrows in the hours of
darkness when the air temperature is
cooler. On Winter days they may be seen
sunning themselves above ground. During the
dry season (May to October), the Wombats are
active for about six hours per night. In
the wet season (November to April), when more
food is available, activity at night decreases
to about two hours.
Breeding is related to Summer rainfall,
occurring less frequently during times of
drought. Young are born mostly in the wet
season. The young remain in the pouch for 6
to 9 months and then stay in the burrow for an
unknown period of time, while their mother
goes out to feed. Weaning occurs at about
twelve months of age.
Overgrazing by cattle
and drought appear to be the main factors
contributing to the species’ decline.
Cattle have been removed from Epping Forest
National Park, so grazing pressure from
livestock is no longer considered a threat.
Current threatening processes are:
loss of genetic diversity, small population
size, predation by dingoes, being restricted
to one location, disease and parasites
affecting the health of the animals, wildlife
and drought destroying food sources, and
competition for food from Eastern Grey
Kangaroos Macropus giganteus,
especially during droughts.
What’s being Done
The breeding status, health and population
structure of the wombats is being monitored.
The habitat is being managed through pasture
manipulation, and by the provision of
supplementary feed and water. In addition,
fire breaks around the Park are being
maintained, dingoes are baited regularly and
the population density of kangaroos is
monitored at least twice a year.
captive colony of Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats
is being established in Rockhampton to develop
assisted breeding and husbandry techniques
that can be applied to the Northern
Hairy-nosed Wombat. Pouch young cross
fostering (removing a pouch young from a
Northern Hairy-nosed wombat and allowing it to
be raised by a female Southern Hairy-nosed
Wombat) is being investigated to increase
reproductive output. Trials are underway
with Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats to refine
the procedures. Northern hairy-nosed Wombat
semen has been collected and cryopreserved to
ensure against any further population
When the population of Northern Hairy-nosed
Wombats increases a second wild population
will be established.
Where can I see them?
Sorry, access to Epping Forest National Park
is restricted to the wombat managers and
researchers to minimise disturbance to the
wombats. In September 2001, the Wombat
Research Centre will open in Rockhampton.
You will be able to view Common and Southern
Hairy-nosed Wombats and visit the Northern
Hairy-nosed Wombat display.