There are now only 115 Northern Hairy Nosed Wombats living in Australia. These quiet creatures have had everything thrown at them. This took a huge toll and their population was down to 35 nearly 30 years ago. Today, with dedication and extensive research the numbers are climbing back.
Northern Hairy Nosed wombats are facing attack from all angles. First it was the introduction of cattle, sheep and rabbits on their small habitat in North Queensland. They were hunted and killed by farmers to protect their farm land and recently narrowly missed mass drowning from the North Queensland floods. Luckily the small habitat in the Epping Forest National Park was just high enough and avoided inundating their burrows.
Twenty years ago the population was down to only 35 wombats. Now with the help of volunteers, research and a fence around the national park the population has increased to 130. These are positive results but it is still a relatively small number which is still dangerous. There is a severe lack of genetic variation and so in breeding is prevalent. The population is always at risk from bush fires and disease which could kill a large number and send the population back many years. The recent severe floods showed their weakness “Although the wombats survived the flood it highlights their vulnerability that this single population has to cataclysmic events”. Said Andrew Dunwoodie from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
Their main enemies are people who have moved in on their territory. Wombats burrow anywhere the soil is soft, this may even mean under homes causing footings in houses to destabalise, they destroy farm land and cause land to collapse. They also carry mange. Many residents of Majors Creek hate them and say they are pests. This makes the work for the wombat supporters even harder.
There are two people on the wombats side Bill and Leslie Waterhouse. They rescue injured Wombats on the side of the road and find them by driving out late at night looking for victims. They say over 250 wombats are hit by cars yearly. The reason being that so many people drive massive cars and four wheel drives. They hit the wombats because they cause no damage. The couple check the pouches of dead mothers for young. Hopefully they are there in time before the feral cats get to the babies.
Bob Cleaver and his wife Jan run a home called Wombat Rise Sanctuary, a home for injured wildlife north East of Adelaide. The pair are very interested in the Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat and have endeavoured to find out everything they can about them. “We think by the time of European settlement that the species may have already been uncommon. We assumed that drought and grazing pressure from cattle and sheep accelerated the species decline.” Bob said. “By 1908 the Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat was extict in the western Queensland towns of St George and Deneliquin.” He added.