Did you know that Koala's closest living relative is in fact the WOMBAT!?
Wombats are one of the largest burrowing mammals in the world weighing up to 36KG and growing over a metre long. These large animals are expert diggers! Their incredibly powerful legs and sharp claws allow them to construct huge tunnels and underground networks. Although they're solitary animals they do often share their burrows with other individuals when sleeping or during breeding seasons. Just like their closest relative, the Koala, they also LOVE to sleep. They sleep up to 16hrs a day and these huge burrows provide the perfect place to do just that. These burrows tend to be constructed in open grasslands and eucalyptus forests.
Wombats are marsupials, meaning that new born joeys are brought up in a pouch, just like Kangaroos and Koalas. Their pouches are actually cleverly designed and face backwards so it doesn't fill with soil while they're digging...cool right?
When first born, a tiny wombat joey weighs only 1 gram, that the weight of a metal paperclip!!
For the first 5 months the joey stays in mums pouch safe from predators
After 5 months or so the little wombat starts to venture out into the real world, but still with lots of help from mum. From 7 months the joey is able to fend for itself.
Wombats are also actually nocturnal animals, meaning they tend to come out at night to feed on grass, roots and bark. To accommodate for their high fibre diets, their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives to prevent them wearing down.
Often they're seen throughout the day in certain parts of Australia. During the cooler months of the year they will sometimes be seen taking advantage of the low light and come out to graze. In other places such as Maria Island off the east coast of Tasmania they can often be seen most days out and about at all times of the day. This is something they have adapted to due to the lack of predators on the Maria Island.
There are 3 species of wombat found in the wild today:
Credit: QLD Government Website
The bare-nosed wombat is the most common with the highest populations in the wild today. Their numbers are significant across the south east of Australia and Tasmania in particular.
The southern hairy-nosed wombat is much rarer than the common bare-nosed. It has larger ears than the common wombat, and its snout is covered with fine hairs. Their populations are extremely fragmented and numbers are estimated to be around 60,000-130,000 individuals.
The northern hairy-nosed wombat is the largest of the three species. Unfortunately their numbers are in a pretty shocking position and are now 'Critically Endangered'.