Coarse-haired wombat, Bare-nosed wombat
The Common wombat (Vombatus ursinus) is a native Australian species. The early settlers called it a 'badger' due to its excellent burrowing skills, though the closest relative of the wombat is the koala. As a matter of fact, the Common wombat is the largest burrowing herbivorous mammal in the world. The characteristic waddling gait and cute appearance make it one of the most charming and adorable animals, found in Australia.
Common wombats are sturdy and built close to the ground. Those found on Tasmania and Flinders Island are often smaller than their mainland counterparts. Common wombats are distinguished from both Hairy-nosed wombats by their bald nose.
The species is endemic to Tasmania and southeastern parts of Australia. Common wombats live in a wide variety of habitats, occurring in coastal forests, alpine woodlands, grasslands, and, generally, wherever there are suitable burrowing conditions.
Common wombats are solitary animals. However, their home ranges often overlap. There have been known cases of multiple individuals using the same burrow, but at different times. These animals are usually nocturnal and crepuscular. At dusk, when the temperature drops, they come out of their burrows to graze. During the cooler season, they have been observed sunbathing during the daytime hours. When looking for food, Common wombats are able to make long trips of several kilometers, during which they occasionally visit the same sites and create so-called "marsupial lawns" or short patches of grass. A wombat can use a number of resting chambers, where it constructs its nest as well as sleeps up to 16 hours per day in order to save energy. Wombat nests are made out of leaves, grass, and sticks. Common wombats are not territorial in their sleeping chambers. However, when it comes to their feeding areas, these animals are highly territorial, defending their territories by scent marking.
The common wombat is an herbivorous (folivorous) animal, primarily feeding upon grass and moss. The diet of this animal also includes shrubs, roots, and barks. When food is scarce, wombats are known to dig up layers of dead grass in order to get to the roots, that they consume.
Very little is presently known about the mating system of these animals. They are thought to be polygynous, considering the fact that males of this species compete and even fight for their mating rights. They breed all year round with a peak period, occurring during the winter months. Females give birth with an interval of 2 years. The gestation period lasts for about 20-30 days, yielding a single joey. The newborn baby is very tiny, about the size of a jelly bean. It remains in the pouch of its mother for the first six months of its life. The female suckles her offspring for around 15 months. Young remain with their mother until they become independent at approximately 18-20 months old. Common wombats reach reproductive maturity after two years old.
Since settlement, these animals have been persecuted and killed in large numbers by farmers, considering burrows of wombats dangerous for livestock. Common wombats are currently abundant and widespread throughout their range. However, threats are still present. These animals suffer from land clearing and alteration of their habitat into agricultural areas, which negatively impact the population of this species. They are also poisoned by baits, which are used to reduce the populations of rabbits and wallabies. Other notable threats include vehicles, indiscriminate shooters as well as dog attacks.
According to IUCN, the Common wombat is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. However, the numbers of this species are stable, and it’s currently classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
These animals play an important role in the ecosystem of their habitat by grazing and displacing the soil and thus helping provide various microsites, which enhance the plant growth in the area.