Northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii)

French: Wombat À Narines Poilues Du Queensland, Wombat À Nez Poilu De Queensland
Spanish: Oso Marsupial Del Río Moonie
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderDiprotodontia
FamilyVombatidae
GenusLasiorhinus (1)
SizeMale head-body length: 102 cm (2)
Female head-body length: 107 cm (2)
Height: 40 cm (2)
Male weight: 30 kg (2)
Female weight: 32.5 kg (2)

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) by the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The northern hairy-nosed wombat is one of the world’s rarest mammals (4), and is the largest known herbivorous burrowing mammal (5). Like the two other wombat species it has a stocky build, a short tail and strong short legs (2). The large head has pointed ears and small eyes, and whiskers that emerge from the side of the nose, hence the common name (6). The forepaws are large with strong claws, and are used for burrowing (2). It has soft silver-grey to brown fur with dark rings surrounding the eyes (2) (6). Males and females are generally similar in appearance, but males are slightly shorter in length, have thicker necks and stockier shoulders (2).

At present, just one population of about 90 individuals (7) is known in 300 hectares of Epping Forest National Park, central Queensland, Australia (4) (5). Historically it has only been known from two other sites, one in Deniliquin, New South Wales, the other in southern Queensland, both of which were extinct by 1908 (5).

Inhabits semi-arid sandy grasslands or gum tree (eucalypt)/ acacia woodlands (8).

This nocturnal and generally solitary marsupial feeds on various grasses. It spends the day inside burrows, and creates huge complex burrow systems (6) in deep sandy soil (5). Burrows occur in groups used by four to five wombats, urine and dung are used to mark burrows that are in use, and obvious paths connect adjacent burrows (5). About half of the adult females swap their burrow group during their life (5). Mating occurs in spring and summer, and most births occur from November to March (6). Females produce a single young each year and can potentially produce two young in three years when rainfall is good, but this rarely happens. The young are carried in a posterior-facing pouch for about eight to nine months (6). Although active at night, they occasionally bask in the sun in winter near the entrance of the burrow (5) (6). A number of adaptations help this species to minimise the time spent in the open; it has one of the lowest water requirements of any mammal, and very low energy expenditure (5). Despite their somewhat lumbering appearance, northern hairy-nosed wombats are capable of running at 40 kilometres per hour when threatened (8).

This wombat may have already been uncommon when Europeans settled, but the decline accelerated due to a combination of drought and competition with introduced grazing livestock (9). Habitat alteration and incidental poisoning may also have contributed to the decline (2). The species may now be vulnerable to predation by dingoes and competition with native species for food (5).

Huge efforts have been made to conserve this species (6). In 1971, the Epping Forest National Park was established to protect the last population of northern hairy-nosed wombats, and by 1982 cattle had been excluded from the area (10). A recovery plan has been produced; the aims of this plan include the establishment of a captive rearing facility (2) and the creation of a second wild population. Suitable sites for re-introduction are currently being identified. The long-term aim of the plan is to establish a network of populations throughout the historic range (5). In 1981 estimates put the population at just 20 to 40 individuals, this had risen to 110 in 2000 (11), but there may be as few as 20 breeding females, (11) so it is clear that the status of this species is very precarious, and that determined long-term conservation efforts are essential if it is to step back from the brink of extinction.

For more information on the northern hairy-nosed wombat see: 

Authenticated (02/03/05) by Alan Horsup. Senior Conservation Officer, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/l-krefftii/index.html

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. CITES (March, 2008)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Queensland Government (March, 2008)
    http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/nature_conservation/wildlife/threatened_plants_and_animals/endangered/northern_hairynosed_wombat/
  5. Horsup, A. (2004) Recovery plan for the northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii) 2004-2008. Environmental Protection Agency/Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Brisbane. Available at:
    http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/l-krefftii/pubs/l-krefftii.pdf
  6. Animal Diversity Web (April, 2002)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/lasiorhinus/l._krefftii$narrative.html
  7. Horsup, A. (2005) Pers. comm.
  8. UNEP-WCMC species sheets (March, 2008)
    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/species/data/species_sheets/nwombat.htm
  9. The Wombat Foundation (March, 2008)
    http://www.wombatfoundation.com.au/aboutus.html
  10. Australian Government Species Page (March, 2008)
    http://environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/northern-hairynosed.html
  11. Banks, S.C., Hoyle, S.D., Horsup, A., Sunnucks, P. and Taylor, A.C. (2003) Demographic monitoring of an entire species (the northern hairy-nosed wombat, Lasiorhinus krefftii) by genetic analysis of non-invasively collected material. Animal Conservation, 6: 1 - 10.