The Bare-Nosed Wombat
Bare-nosed wombats (scientifically known as Vombatus ursinus) are commonly found throughout New South Wales and are one of three wombat species found only in Australia. Wombats are scattered across a broad area, stretching from South East Queensland to South East South Australia and Tasmania. Sadly, they’re facing a tough enemy, sarcoptic mange, a debilitating infestation by the mite Sarcoptes scabeiei, if left untreated, will lead to a slow painful death.
Wombats prefer temperate forests, however, they can be observed in a variety of habitats like coastal areas, scrublands, and even in human-altered landscapes like pastoral fields. What sets them apart is their nocturnal habits and love for digging burrows, making them quite the mystery to spot in the wild. Despite their elusive nature, these wombats play an incredibly important role in their ecosystem.
Why Are Bare-Nosed Wombats Important?
Bare-Nosed wombats dig burrows and search for food, and these activities have a significant impact on the soil around them. They prefer soft soil for burrow building, often in spots like gullies, creeks, and floodplains. These areas usually have nutrient-rich soil, and when a wombat digs a burrow, it brings this nutrient treasure to the surface. On average, a fully built burrow displaces between 1.4 cubic meters to 5.7 cubic meters of soil. When they’re foraging, they uncover small roots and stir up the surface soil, helping with soil turnover. All of these activities by the Bare-Nosed wombats are crucial to keeping our ecosystem healthy by affecting soil turnover rates, nutrient cycling, and water infiltration.
How Does Sarcoptic Mange Affect Wombats?
Sarcoptic mange is a big issue for Bare-Nosed wombats, it’s transferred via a mite which is present across their entire range. The exact way the mite spreads is not entirely clear (with its origin likely attributed to introduced mammals to Australia). It is likely that their spread throughout wombat populations is due to sharing burrows, higher rainfall and higher densities of wombats, which could be connected to a higher prevalence of the mite, which persists in ideal environmental conditions. Even though not all wombats are impacted, sarcoptic mange can spread rapidly throughout local populations if it is not treated.
Solution: Caring for Wombats
The New South Wales (NSW) National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has teamed up with the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife (FNPW) to address mange in wombats by providing grant funding of up to $2 million for eligible licensed wildlife organisations and indigenous community organisations to provide funding to treat wombats.
This funding can be used to purchase eligible items to treat wild wombats in situ as outlined in the NSW Curb Wombat Manage Grants program.
What’s the intention of the Curb Wombat Mange Program?
- Boost the capacity of licensed wildlife organisations or Indigenous community organisations to respond rapidly to wombats with mange.
- Ensure that the grant recipients can safely meet the requirements of all permits and licenses.
- Provide financial support in managing mange for eligible organisations.
- Improve the recovery and animal welfare outcomes long term.
- Monitor the success of mange control efforts through effective reporting.
Data collected during the project will be used to make informed decisions on how mange can be managed for future conservation projects and to identify areas where further information or research is required.
Impact: Making a Difference for Bare-nosed Wombats
The Wombat Mange grant provides financial security to recipients, enabling them to keep doing their great work in managing mange with the option to expand efforts. This support ensures that wombats receive the care they need, and it contributes to the broader conservation value of these animals.