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Wombats (Vombatus and Lasiorhinus spp.) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

In North American Zoos

  • Common wombat
    • Most common wombat species in zoos worldwide, but few specimens in North America
    • First zoo-kept individuals on record: Paris, 1803 (Jackson 2003)
      • 3 common wombats brought to France by explorer Nicholas Baudin, kept in Natural History Museum zoological gardens
    • 4 individuals in North American zoos as of December 2012
      • Albuquerque BioPark Zoo - Vombatus ursinus tasmaniensis
      • San Diego Zoo - Vombatus ursinus ursinus (Bon voyage wombats)
  • Southern hairy-nosed wombat
    • Less common in zoos worldwide
    • Current North American captive management/breeding program began at Brookfield Zoo in 1969 (Brown 2011)
      • 10 individuals in North American zoos as of 2012
        • Brookfield Zoo, Memphis Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Toronto Zoo
      • Gene pool very limited
      • Successful breeding pairs: Brookfield Zoo, San Diego Zoo
  • Northern hairy-nosed wombat
    • Not held in any institution as of December 2012
    • Few specimens ever kept in captivity due to low numbers in wild and difficulties in husbandry (Banks, Horsup et al. 2003)
      • 3 captured by farmer in 1967, kept as pets - female "Joan" lived 27 years in captivity (Jackson 2003)

Husbandry

  • Compatibility (Jackson 2003)
    • Housing in groups or with other species not recommended, due to aggressive behavior
      • Common wombats typically held solitarily or as pairs
      • Southern hairy-nosed wombats preferably held as pairs or small group
  • Diet in captivity (Jackson 2003)
    • Low energy, low protein diet primarily based on grass
    • Tendency to become obese in captivity due to extremely low basal metabolic rate
  • Behavioral enrichment (Jackson 2003; Treby 2005)
    • Browse, tussock grasses, scattered food
    • Adequate, soft soil for natural digging behaviors
    • Scratching brush on tree
    • Items to climb in and on (cardboard food dispenser, wheelbarrow, garbage bin, etc.)
  • Breeding in managed care (Jackson 2003)
    • Most captive wombats are hand-reared orphans
    • Have not bred routinely in captivity, but some successes
    • Contributors to successful breeding
      • Large enclosure
      • Large amounts of fresh grass prior to breeding season (hairy-nosed wombats)
    • Estrous cycle tracking and assisted breeding technologies
      • Semen collection and storage methods (McCallum & Johnson 2005; Rodger et al. 2009)
      • Artificial insemination protocol (McCallum 2005)
    • Young should be removed at 20-28 mo old, prior to mother's next estrus and increasing aggressiveness
  • Rearing by keepers (Jackson 2003)
    • Commonly done for common and southern hairy-nosed wombats
    • Diet and other requirements described by Jackson (2003)

Enjoyment of Grass

Wombat walking on grass at San Diego Zoo

A young wombat at the San Diego Zoo.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Banks, Horsup et al. (2003)
Brown (2011)
Jackson (2003)
McCallum (2005)
McCallum & Johnson (2005)
Rodger et al. (2009)
Treby (2005)

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