I vaguely remember learning about the wombat when I was about 5 or 6. My parents taped a lot of nature shows for me to rewatch and one of them was on Australia. That was a favorite, so I watched it all the time. The wombat had maybe a 3-5 minute piece that didn’t go into any details. Other animals were more interesting, but it was enough that I knew what it was. So, what is it?
A wombat is a marsupial from Australia and looks like a large rodent. They are short, four-legged animals that can bowl a person over or bite through a boot. They are also known to go through fences that happen to be in their way, so they are clearly stronger than they look. Wombats are burrowers, which is why they have adapted to have a backwards facing pouch. This means that they don’t get soil in the pouch while digging, so their young are protected from a possible accident.
(Added fact: Read after I published this that wombat burrows are so long and extensive that other animals use them to escape brushfires. So, they are very important for other species’ survival.)
Wombats eat plants and have a slow metabolism, which helps them survive periods where food is scarce. One would think they’d be slow like sloths due to their metabolism and you would be right. Although, they are able to sprint about 25 mph if threatened. They don’t go very far, but it’s enough to give a predator a challenge. Wombats are also known for having cube-shaped poop. This is believed to be an adaptation for marking territory since the shape makes the poop easier to stack. It is unclear how they form the poop, but it’s thought to be due to the way the intestine moves waste products.
There are 3 species of wombats with the Northern Hairy-Nosed species being listed as critically endangered. They are one of the rarest land mammals in the world since there are only around 100 left. Disease, competing for food with cattle and sheep, and predation by wild dogs is what has devastated the Northern Hairy-Nosed wombat population. It doesn’t help that all three species were labeled as pests and had bounties put on them by the Australian government in the early 1900’s. That practice has stopped and all of them are now protected in every territory with there being several conservation programs used to help them. Common (least concerned) and Southern Hairy-Nosed (near threatened) wombats are stable, but the Northern Hairy-Nosed (critically endangered) species is still in a danger.
Let’s look at some pictures and videos to help with visuals.