Broad nosed wombat, Broad-nosed wombat, Hairy nosed southern wombat, Hairy-nosed southern wombat, Plains wombat, Soft-furred wombat
Southern hairy-nosed wombat is a clumsy and plump marsupial with a charming face, large nose and small, bright eyes. Due to having adapted to harsh environment and a specific lifestyle, this animal is able to live on its nutrient-poor diet of grasses. One of 3 wombat species, this animal is distinguished from other 2 species of the family by relatively smaller body, longer ears, more reddish fur as well as shorter and more pointed muzzle, exhibiting white hairs around the nose.
The original range of these animals covered much of Australia, while now Southern hairy-nosed wombats are found in small, scattered populations in southern central Australia. In New South Wales, 2 colonies of these animals inhabit the western part of the state. In South Australia, they mainly occur in the York Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula as well as from the Nullarbor Plain to Western Australia. The preferred habitats of these wombats are grasslands, open plains, shrublands, savannas and open woodlands in semi-arid, inland areas.
Southern hairy-nosed wombats live in burrows, which are connected to a complex, extending tunnel systems known as warrens. Their burrows are underground dwellings, located at a depth of up to 2 meters and having long tunnels of up to 30 meters. Meanwhile, each warren has multiple tunnels with many entrances and leaf-lined resting chambers. One warren may be used by 5 - 10 individuals of both sexes, usually with equal proportions of males and females. These solitary and territorial animals are known to mark their warrens. Southern hairy-nosed wombats are nocturnal animals. They spend the daytime hours in their underground burrows, coming out to feed by night, when the temperature drops. During the breeding season, males often engage in fight, biting the ears, flank, or rump of one another. They may also fight when defending their territories. These wombats use vocalizations and scents to communicate with conspecifics. When alarmed or threatened, they give out a strident call as a warning signal, which is heard by nearby wombats.
Southern hairy-nosed wombats are polygynandrous (promiscuous), which means, that both males and females have multiple mates. They breed in September-December. Gestation period lasts for 21 days, yielding a single baby, which is born and raised in a special nursery burrow. Immediately after birth, the baby climbs into the pouch of its mother, where it continues to grow. Young are cared and raised only by females, while males don't participate in the upbringing. They begin coming out of the pouch at 6 - 8 months old, leaving the pouch at 9 months old. After leaving the pouch, they still feed upon maternal milk, regularly returning to their mother, which teaches them burrowing and grazing skills. At 1 year old, juveniles are completely weaned, becoming sexually mature at 3 years old.
Some threats to the population of these wombats are associated with human activity. Thus, the animals suffer from destruction of their natural habitat as a result of agricultural development and grazing. On the other hand, these wombats compete for suitable food with cattle, sheep, rabbits and other grazers, which share similar grass diet with these marsupials. Another big threat to these wombats is 'arcoptic mange' - a disease, caused by bite of a local mite and resulting in 80 - 90% of mortality among infected individuals. The population in the Murray Lands, for example, has been reduced by 70% since 2002 due to arcoptic mange as well as severe drought.
The IUCN Red List doesn’t provide the exact number of the Southern hairy-nosed wombats’ total population. However, specific populations have been estimated in some areas. The Nullarbor Plain (South Australia) holds 50,000 - 100,000 wombats. York Peninsula holds a notable population of this species: Wool Bay - around 100 individuals; Port Victoria - approximately 400 animals; Urania - about 200 wombats; Kadina - 50-100 individuals. Other areas inlcude: Lake Eberard - 100-1000 individuals; the Bawler Ranges - around 10,000 wombats; Ellistron - 3,000 wombats; Small Kellidie - approximately 100 animals; Wedge Island - about 100 individuals. Currently, Southern hairy-nosed wombats are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.