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Wombats (Vombatus and Lasiorhinus spp.) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status and Threats to Survival

  • Endemic to Australia (Jackson 2003)
  • Common wombat, Vombatus ursinus
    • Widespread in southeastern Australia
      • No recent population estimates available
    • Previously considered vermin, now protected in many areas (Triggs 1996)
      • In Victoria - bounty system established in 1925 to protect landowners from fence damage
        • Wombats trapped, poisoned, shot in forests as well as farmlands
        • Resulted in many thousands of wombat deaths (64,000 from 1950-1966) until suspended in 1966
    • Roads are significant hazard (Roger et al. 2011)
  • Northern hairy-nosed wombat, Lasiorhinus krefftii
    • One of the world's rarest mammals (Banks, Hoyle et al. 2003)
      • Only occur at two sites: Epping Forest National Park and Richard Underwood Nature Refuge (small population)
    • In 1981, only 1 remnant colony
      • Located in Epping Forest National Park
      • 1981 population estimate - as few as 35 individuals (Hoyle et al. 1995)
      • Cattle excluded from park in attempt to save species
    • Population increasing (Horsup 1998; DEHP 2012 -- see graph)
      • By mid-1990s - stabilized at about 65 individuals
        • Drought a recurrent problem
      • 2000-2001 - major setback when 15-20 lost to dingo predation (Horsup & Johnson 2008)
        • 2002 - entire habitat of wombat colony enclosed in 20-km (12.4-mi) fence to prevent reoccurrence (Horsup 2004)
      • 2005 - about 115 individuals (Horsup & Johnson 2008)
      • 2007 - about 138 individuals (DEHP 2012)
        • New, non-invasive census technique - collect hair from adhesive tape suspended in front of burrow entrances, analyze DNA (Banks, Hoyle et al. 2003)
      • 2010 - about 163 individuals (Wells 2015)
      • 2016 - about 250 individuals in the wild (Queensland Government 2018)
    • 2nd colony established in 2009 (Williams 2012; Glencore (Xstrata) Reintroduction Project)
      • Richard Underwood Nature Refuge near Saint George, south-central Queensland (in historical range)
      • 15 individuals relocated from primary colony
      • As of November 2012 - 10 adults, 3 new offspring (all prospering)
    • Threats
      • Loss of habitat and native food species
        • Native grasses replaced by invading African Buffel Grass (Horsup & Johnson 2008)
      • Competition from introduced grazers
        • Population increased after cattle excluded from Epping Forest National Park in 1981
      • Drought
        • Population increased after major drought ended in 1996 (Horsup & Johnson 2008)
      • Predation
        • Major setback in 2000-2001 due to dingo predation (Horsup 2004)
          • In one case in 2000, carcasses of 7 individuals found surrounded by canid tracks and scat (Banks, Horsup et al. 2003)
            • Genotyping of DNA extracted from wombat carcasses and dingo feces confirmed dingoes consumed the wombats
          • Dingo-proof fence erected to protect colony
      • Male bias in sex ratio
        • 2.3:1 male:female (Horsup 1998)
      • No animals currently in captivity due to low numbers in wild, difficulties in husbandry (Banks, Hoyle et al. 2003)
  • Southern hairy-nosed wombat, Lasiorhinus latifrons
    • Wide but patchy distribution across southern Australia - not endangered
      • Large population, occurs in a number of protected areas
      • Estimates from various parts of range total approximately 100,000-300,000 mature individuals (Woinarski & Burbidge 2016)
    • Threats
      • Sporadic outbreaks of sarcoptic mange
      • Competition with introduced herbivores
      • Susceptibility to drought
      • Severe fragmentation in parts of range

Conservation Status

  • Common wombat, V. urisinus
    • IUCN status: Least Concern (2015 assessment) (Taggart, Martin & Menkhorst 2016)
      • Previous assessments
        • 2008: Least Concern
        • 1996, 1965: Lower Risk/least concern
    • CITES status: Not listed (as of 27 Apr 2018)
    • Australian Commonwealth - Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999
    • South Australia Government - Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources
  • Northern hairy-nosed wombat, L. krefftii
  • Southern hairy-nosed wombat, L. latifrons

Management Actions

  • Common wombat
    • IUCN (Taggart, Martin & Menkhorst 2008)
      • Present in some protected areas
      • Protected in most states, except classified as vermin in eastern Victoria (mainly due to fencing damage)
  • Northern hairy-nosed wombat
    • Recovery Plan (Horsup 2004; summarized by Taggart, Martin & Horsup 2008):
      • Control threats, manage habitat
        • Predator control - built 20-km (12-mi) fence in 2002 (prevent dingo predation)
        • Monitor/control competitors - monitor eastern grey kangaroo (major food competitor)
        • Habitat management - remove buffel grass (promote green growth, native species)
        • Fire management - annual burns (reduce fuel loads, promote plant diversity)
        • Supplementary feed/water provisioning - stations are in use by wombats, particularly when dry (Treby et al. 2007)
        • Permanent management presence, Epping Forest National Park - volunteer caretakers (monitor dingo fence)
      • Accurate monitoring, 3 times per year - collect hair on sticky tape and extract DNA to identify individuals (Banks, Hoyle et al. 2003)
        • Burrow monitoring - monitor activity levels at burrows every 6 mo (early warning system)
        • Trapping - only when necessary (e.g., to attach radio-collars)
      • Translocation - locate sites for future colony establishment, develop translocation techniques
      • Develop captive techniques on southern hairy-nosed wombats
        • Improve captive breeding and reproductive monitoring techniques
      • Biology and ecology studies - diet, reproduction, habitat utilization, behavior, burrow architecture
      • Manage recovery team - full-time manager
  • Southern hairy-nosed wombat
    • IUCN (Taggart & Robinson 2008)
      • No formal recovery program
      • Need to reduce inbreeding among York Peninsula populations, likely through translocation/introduction of individuals
    • New South Wales (NSW) Office of Environment and Heritage - Priority Action Statement:
      • Incentive program to encourage location/disclosure by landholders/general public
      • If local populations rediscovered, assess status, identify threats, determine recovery strategy
      • Genetic testing to determine similarity of New South Wales and South Australia populations
      • Community education strategy for habitat rehabilitation/protection
      • Encourage community awareness/involvement
      • Protect local warren sites from livestock grazing
      • Encourage and train landholders to conduct annual monitoring
      • Determine significance to Aboriginal cultures, encourage involvement in recovery
      • Control feral goats and rabbits near rediscovered warrens
    • Zoos South Australia
      • Helping North American zoos establish insurance populations, breeding programs (Fields 2012)
    • Programs, technologies (Hogan 2010)
      • Development of captive breeding programs and assisted reproductive technologies underway
      • Expected to play important role in preservation of L. latifrons, provide invaluable information for endangered L. krefftii

Varied Conservation Statuses

Wombat at burrow entrance

Common wombats are regarded as abundant, whereas southern and especially northern hairy-nosed wombats are at risk of extinction.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Banks, Horsup et al. (2003)
Banks, Hoyle et al. (2003)
Fields (2012)
Jackson (2003)
Hogan (2010)
Horsup (1998)
Horsup (2004)
Horsup & Johnson (2008)
Hoyle et al. (1995)
Roger et al. (2011)
Taggart & Robinson (2008)
Taggart, Martin & Menkhorst (2008)
Taggart, Martin & Horsup (2008)
Treby et al. (2007)

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