The Wombat Awareness Organisation wants a better life for wombats. We think they are wonderful, unique and important! Rather than blaming the weather, we take a very hands on approach when it comes to their welfare. To every problem, there has been very simple, achievable solutions and despite having a very small team, we get out there and do our job, we save lives. The wombats respond amazingly and teach us so much!
It is our belief that it is not fair for thousands of wombats to starve as we have mismanaged their land, or for them to die out due to an introduced pest (mange) or that they be treated like vermin and killed indiscriminately. So we have developed great projects showing that a little care, and a little money can make the world of difference
As this species of wombat inhabits semi-arid environments, they are sensitive to changes in weather patterns. Drought can have a catastrophic effect on wombat populations. Overgrazing, population fragmentation and restrictions on the wombats’ natural movement have greatly changed their natural environment thus leaving the species more susceptible to climatic changes. WAO believes it is not ethical to allow the wombats to suffer and has trialled supplementary feeding with great success to sustain populations until natural relief is available.
MURRAYLAND’S MANGE MANAGEMENT PROGRAM
Sarcoptic mange is a debilitating parasitic disease that can decimate a wombat population. It is believed to be spread by the introduced red fox and effects Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats in areas within close proximity to waterways. It has been documented that up to 80% of certain populations have perished due to mange. WAO in conjunction with the Wombat Protection Society of Australia and funded by the Foundation of National Parks and Wildlife expanded on trials undertaken on the Bare-nosed Wombat by utilising plastic self treatment flaps on the entrance of the burrows. Within the flap is a cap filled with a parasiticide which allows the wombat to be treated as they leave their burrow. Each wombat is treated and monitored. WAO has successfully eradicated mange from regions and continues to help wombats in mange affected areas.
WOMBAT MITIGATION PROGRAM
Conflict between wombats and landholders has seen the destruction of wombats for many years. In 2010, WAO undertook a Mitigation Program to trial non-lethal co-existence strategies and determine the movements of wombats within farming communities. Peaceful co-existence is obtainable however changing the attitudes within the farming community are difficult. WAO has shifted its mitigation program focus from developing further co-existence strategies to understanding the social order of the wombats.
Starting on 72 properties in the Murrayland’s of South Australia our work began. Each property owner answered an extensive survey and gave us a very candid insight to the treatment of wild wombats. Startling facts such as every participating property had killed wombats on their property yet only 5% had applied for a ‘Destruction Permit’ to legally kill wombats. Also the ‘economic costs’ wombats generated were incredibly low – on average just $200 per property per year. In fact more money is spent on trying to eradicate wombats than what the animals cost the property owners. The wombats take up less than 1% of the participating land, the average size of the participating properties was 900 acres. WAO believes that some land should be kept available for wildlife on every property.
As time progressed easy, effective, cheap alternatives were found. WAO believes that wombats are not the problem but a symptom of the problem. If there was an abundance of money or if the farming was profitable, would the wombats still be killed? Should it be allowed by us all to let the wombats die out due to a couple of hundred dollars a year for the several hundred properties they live on? WAO is looking for solutions via state and federal grants for farmers to be paid to have land available for wombats and wildlife thus promoting an accepting community and placing an intrinsic value on the wombat.
There are plenty of farmers that do not have a problem with the resident wombats – they go around them and accept that they are present. This group of amazing people report no population increases and do not create bigger problems.
There is a notable difference between the populations on properties that eradicate wombats and those which don’t. Where destruction of wombats is undertaken, there are complaints of a rise in wombat populations and burrow numbers, whilst those that peacefully co-exist have stable populations. WAO along with the Australian Wombat Rehabilitation Centre Inc are undertaking trials into the sociality of wombats and management of populations via wombat hierarchy. WAO’s aim is to determine whether the dominant male or female wombat controls the breeding and social order within a colony and if the destruction of wombats actually increases wombat populations by disrupting this order.
WAO is currently investigating the following subjects in hope of determining if the culling of wombats is an effective form of population management…
- Social dominance and its impact on breeding
- Removal of dominant wombats and the effects on the social dynamics of the colony
- Acceptance of new wombats into existing population
- Age/sex of wombats most readily accepted into the community
- Age/sex of wombats that create new burrows
- Seasonal movement of wombats