Calling on governments to give wombats room to survive

IFAW and our partner, the Wombat Foundation, are calling for national and state governments to secure new habitat sites to give the wombats room to grow.  ©PHOTO: Phil BailyHairy Nosed Day makes me smile. Not just because of the name, but because it raises awareness of one of my favourite animals, the Northern hairy nosed wombat.

Did you know that this marsupial is Queensland’s most endangered mammal and is considered one of the world’s most evolutionarily distinct species by the Royal Zoological Society of London?

To celebrate this day, we’re supporting our friends at the Wombat Foundation by uploading pictures of us wearing whiskers for wildlife, including the hashtags #whiskersforwildlife #Hairynosedday. 

We’ve also asked Jacqui Mills, Director of the Wombat Foundation, the group that launched Hairy-Nosed Day, to explain why the Northern hairy nosed wombat still faces threats despite 15 years of population growth. --JS

WANTED: A NEW HOME FOR A HAIRY NOSED FRIEND!

Last week, IFAW shared news from the recent wombat conference that the critically endangered Northern hairy nosed wombat is nearing carrying capacity in its current habitats and needs to be repopulated in a new home.

In the past, the hairy nosed wombat species has been recorded as living in central Queensland, the Moonie River area in southern Queensland and Deniliquin near the New South Wales –Victoria border. However in the 1970s the population declined significantly and these mammals were only to be found in one location in central Queensland – Epping Forest National Park.  Competition for food with introduced species (cattle, sheep, and rabbits) was thought to have been a major cause of the wombats’ decline.

In the early 1980s, wombat numbers continued to decline – there were just 35 individuals left,  triggering the IUCN to place the Northern hair nosed wombat on the Red List of critically endangered species.  Practically, the government built a fence around the National Park to prevent cattle incursions destroying habitat. Other improved conservation measures led to growth in wombat numbers but predation continued to be a problem, with 10% of the population killed in wild dog attacks in 2000-2001.  Since the construction of a predator-proof fence and provision of supplementary feed and water, numbers grew significantly.

And in 2009, a number of wombats were relocated to a new site within the species’ historic range. This second population at Richard Underwood Nature Refuge near St George in southern Queensland meant that we were able to reduce risk of extinction in the wild as a result of disease, fire or flood sweeping through a single population.

As this wombat population began to stabilise and grow, the site selected to home this second population proved to be too small to sustain a viable population of wombats.

So this year, on Hairy Nosed Day, we are calling on the government to find a larger site to ensure that the IUCN Red Listed critically endangered hairy nosed wombat has some chance of survival.  Our newly released “Room to Grow” report card found that numbers are now up to more than 200 wombats; but we only have three years left to find new habitat before the wombats run out of space to feed and breed.

We’re calling for national and state governments to work with conservation groups like the Wombat Foundation and IFAW, and with landholders to secure new sites to give the wombats room to survive. 

We’re buoyed by Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews’s recent comments to us that the Northern hairy nosed remains a priority species for the Australian Government, despite it not being on his official priority 20 list.

Here’s hoping that days like our Hairy Nosed one raises enough awareness to the plight of these wombats so that we can bring this endangered species back from the brink of extinction.

--JM

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