By Graham Land
Back in January I posted about the plight of the wombat, perhaps mainland Australia’s 3rd most iconic marsupial, albeit significantly behind the kangaroo and the koala. Powerful vegetarian diggers, wombats have back-facing pouches and are surprisingly fast runners.
Though common wombats have relatively healthy populations in the coastal regions of southeast Australia, the northern hairy-nosed wombat is a critically endangered species, numbering only 200. Though the species once enjoyed a wide range across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland states, most of them now inhabit an area of only 3 square kilometres in Queensland’s Epping National Forest Park.
It was cattle farming that spelled doom for the northern hairy-nose wombat, with cows steadily outcompeting the stocky marsupials for grass over the last 300 years. In the 80s there were in fact only 35 hairy noses left so they’ve already made a significant recovery since. Still, they’ll need to do quite a bit better than that to achieve healthy population numbers.
One tactic is “re-wilding”, which means breeding the wombats and then introducing them back into their ancestral habitats. A similar method is part of the plan to save the threatened Tasmanian devil, which is being wiped out by a contagious mouth cancer.
From the Guardian:
"Although re-wilding has been in existence for a few decades it is only recently that conservationists have started to take it more seriously. Part of its growing acceptance is due to conservationists realising that the survival of species depends intrinsically on the survival of ecosystems, while those same ecosystems and species are under unprecedented pressure from climate change and habitat destruction." More....