Lasiorhinus krefftii used to be abundant in New South Wales until the settlement of Europeans in the area after 1872. There were populations near St. George in South Queensland and near Jeriderie in New South Wales until around 1910. The sole population of the hairy-nosed wombat is now in the Epping Forest National Park, northwest of Clermont in Central Queensland.
Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )
These wombats are heavily built with very powerful forearms. They have a thick, stocky body that averages one meter (3.25 ft) in length. Their heads are large, with small eyes and pointed ears. Currently they are one of the world's largest burrowing animals. Males and females are both covered with a soft, silky brown coat. They have long whiskers extending from the sides of their noses -- hence the name hairy-nosed wombat. The females have posteriorly-oriented pouches. They also have continuously growing upper molars due to their diet.
Range mass: 25 to 40 kg.
Habitat and Ecology
Hairy-nosed wombats are terrestrial and build burrows. They spend time both above and below ground. They live in semi-arid, open woodlands or grasslands.
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland
The hairy-nosed wombat is strictly herbivorous and feeds on the native grasses in the park where it resides. These grasses include Hetropogon contortus (bunch spear grass) and Aristida spp. (three-awned grass). The wombat's decline in numbers has mostly been due to competition from local cattle for the grass they both feed upon. These animals have weak eyesight combined with a good senses of smell and hearing, and their activity is nocturnal.
Life History and Behavior
Status: captivity: 30 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
There is a single mating season per year that takes place in the spring/summer period. Time of birth ranges from November to March. Hairy-nosed wombats give birth to a single young. It has recently been hypothesized that heavy rainfall in the winter months prior to the mating season is positively correlated with birth rate. This is most likely because rain makes the native grasses more abundant. Observations on their natural habitat have revealed low subadult survivorship, but without revealing why this occurs. The young wombat is carried in the mother's pouch for approximately six months, and it is nursed for eight to nine months. Unfortunately, almost nothing is known about the details of their reproduction or gestation because it is very difficult to observe them in the wild, and in captivity they do not fare well. Trapped animals are kept only for a short period of time.
Average number of offspring: 1.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Critically Endangered
- 1994Endangered(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Endangered(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Endangered(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Endangered(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
- 1982Endangered(Thornback and Jenkins 1982)
Date Listed: 12/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Lasiorhinus krefftii (formerly, see its USFWS Species Profile
Lasiorhinus krefftii are extremely endangered and there have been massive efforts to prevent their extinction. Although previously avoided at almost all costs, trapping has now become a major tool for conservationists to build up this population of wombats. The trapping experiments were begun in 1985. In 1981 it was estimated that there were only 20-40 wombats left, but now the estimated number of wombats is around 70. The local cattle in the area have been the largest problem for the population in recent years. There are now strict restrictions on cattle grazing in the park. The wombats used to be abundant before European settlement as well.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: critically endangered
1) Control threats and manage habitat. Predator control ? A 20-km predator fence was built in 2002 to prevent a repeat of dingo predation that killed at least 15 wombats in 2000. Monitor and control competitors ? The Eastern Grey Kangaroo is the major competitor for food and its numbers are being monitored. Habitat management ? Introduced buffel grass is regularly slashed to promote green growth and native species. Fire management ? Annual burns are undertaken to reduce fuel loads and promote plant diversity. Supplementary feed and water provisioning ? Feed and water stations are now being used by wombats, particularly in dry times (Treby et al. 2007). Permanent management presence on Epping Forest National Park ? A volunteer caretaker program ensures twice daily monitoring of the dingo fence.
2) Accurately monitoring wombats. Population censuses ? Three censuses each year minimize disturbance and maximize the accuracy of the result and involve collecting wombat hair on sticky tape to extract DNA (see Banks et al. 2003). Burrow monitoring ? This is undertaken every six months and monitors activity levels at burrows as an ?early warning system?. Trapping ? This was the major means of censusing prior to development of the DNA technique and is now only undertaken when necessary (e.g., to attach radio-collars).
3) Translocation. Locate sites for the establishment of future Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat colonies and develop translocation techniques on Epping Forest National Park.
4) Develop captive techniques on other wombat species. Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats are being used to improve wombat captive breeding and reproductive monitoring techniques. There are no Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats in captivity.
5) Monitor wombat biology and ecology. This includes ongoing studies of diet, reproduction, habitat utilization, behavior, and burrow architecture.
6) Manage the recovery team. A full-time Recovery Manager is responsible for coordinating and implementing the Recovery Plan, making all relevant information available to recovery personnel, obtaining funding for the Recovery Plan, and undertaking research and monitoring.
This species is listed on CITES Appendix I.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
The rigorous conservation attempts for this wombat have been costly to the Australian government and other independent sources. They have also been a problem for cattle raisers because they have been forced to find new areas for their cattle to graze. This is especially difficult because this area of Australia is plagued by droughts (a problem for the wombats themselves.)
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Until recently, the northern hairy-nosed wombat was widely hunted for its fur, which has high commercial value.
Northern hairy-nosed wombat
The northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii), is one of three species of wombats. It is one of the rarest large mammals in the world and is critically endangered. Its historical range extended across New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland as recently as 100 years ago, but it is now restricted to one place, a 3-km2 range within the 32-km2 Epping Forest National Park in Queensland. In 2003, the total population consisted of 113 individuals, including only around 30 breeding females. In the last census taken in 2010 there was found to be an estimated population of 163 individuals, and in recent years the species seems to be following the trend of a slow but steady increase.
In general, all species of wombats are heavily built with large heads and short powerful legs. They have strong claws to dig their burrows, where they live much of the time. It usually takes about a day for an individual to dig a burrow.
Northern hairy-nosed wombats have bodies covered in soft, grey fur and even have fur on their noses, a trait that sets them apart from the common wombat. They have longer, more pointed ears and a much broader muzzle than the other two species. Individuals can be 35 cm high, up to 1 m long and weigh up to 40 kg. The species exhibits sexual dimorphism, with females being somewhat larger than males due to the presence of an extra layer of fat. They are slightly larger than the common wombat and able to breed somewhat faster (giving birth to two young every three years on average).
The northern hairy-nosed wombat's nose is very important in its survival because it has very poor eyesight, so it can easily detect its food in the dark through smell.
The Northern hairy-nosed wombat is nocturnal, living underground in networks of burrows. They avoid coming above-ground in harsh weather conditions because the burrows maintain a constant humidity and temperature threshold. They have been known to share burrows with up to 10 individuals, equally divided by sex. Young are usually born during the wet season between November and April. In years with a lot of rainfall, 50-80% of the females in the population will breed, giving birth to one offspring at a time. Juveniles stay in the mother's pouch for 8 to 9 months and are weaned at 12 months of age.
Northern hairy-nosed wombats do not have to feed every day because they have such a low metabolic rate that allows them to sustain themselves off energy reserves in the body for extended periods of time. Even when they do feed every day, it is only for 6 hours a day in the winter and 2 hours in the summer, significantly less than a similar-sized kangaroo that must feed for at least 18 hours a day. Their diet consists of native grasses (black speargrass (Heteropogon contortus), bottle washer grasses(Enneapogon spp.), golden beard grass (Chrysopogon fallax), and three-awned grass(Aristida spp.) as well as various types of roots. One trait that makes this species unique is their teeth grow throughout their lifetime, so older individuals can eat just as efficiently as younger individuals. Its habitat has become infested with African buffel grass, which outcompetes the native grasses on which the wombat prefers to feed.
The genus name Lasiorhinus comes from the Latin words lasios, meaning hairy or shaggy, and rhinus, meaning nose. The widely accepted common name is Northern hairy-nosed wombat, based on the historical range of the species as well as the fur, or "whiskers", on its nose. In some older literature it is referred to as the Queensland hairy-nosed wombat.
The Northern hairy-nosed wombat shares its genus with one other extant species, the Southern hairy-nosed wombat. The common wombat, is in the Vombatus genus. Both Lasiorhinus species differ morphologically from the common wombat by their silkier fur, broader hairy noses, and longer ears.
Placental and marsupial mammals are an example of divergent evolution, an evolutionary concept occurring when a single group of organisms splits into two groups and each group evolves in different directions. The wombat, with all marsupials, diverged from placental mammals during the Cretaceous. The koala is the most closely related marsupial to wombats and is categorised in the same suborder, Vombatiformes.
Threats to the Northern hairy-nosed wombat include small population size, predation, competition for food, disease, floods, droughts, wildfires, and habitat loss. Having such small population sizes makes the species especially vulnerable to natural disasters. Wild dogs are probably the wombat's number one predator. The habitat at Epping Forest National Park is now well-protected to ensure better chances of survival.
Due to these threats, the Northern hairy-nosed wombat is listed as "endangered" by the Australian Species Profile and Threats Database (SPRAT), and "critically endangered" by the IUCN. Its range is restricted to about 300 ha (750 acres) of the Epping National Forest in East-Central Queensland, 120 km northwest of Clermont.
To combat the vulnerability of this species, there have been a number of conservation projects put into action over recent years. One example was the construction of a two-metre-high, predator-proof fence around 25 km2 of the park in 2000. Recently, a second population of wombats has been established at Richard Underwood Nature Refuge at Yarran Downs near St. George in Southern Queensland. This second population was established in 2008 and is also in a reserve surrounded by a predator-proof fence. Within Epping Forest National Park, there have been increased attention and funds for wombat research and population monitoring, fire management, maintenance of the predator-proof fence, general management and control of predators and competitors, and elimination of invasive plant species.  In addition, the species recovery plan of 2004 to 2008 includes communication and community involvement in saving the species and works to increase the current population in the wild, establish other populations within the wombat's historical range, and work with zoos to establish a captive husbandry program. There is also a volunteer caretaker program that allows volunteers to contribute in monitoring the population and keeping the predator fence in good repair. Finally, DNA fingerprint identification of wombat hairs allows research to be conducted without an invasive trapping or radio tracking program. Due to the combined efforts of these forces, the Northern hairy-nosed wombat population is slowly making a comeback.
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