What’s in a name? Why the common wombat could become the not-so-common wombat

One of Australia’s most iconic native animals is now under threat, and only you can fix it. A recent study by Sydney scientists has concluded that the biggest threat to the common wombat is road traffic, and this, in addition to low reproductive rates, will be problematic for the ‘common’ species to maintain its status.

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Image by Craig Kirkwood (Source: http://www.ozanimals.com/Mammal/Common-Wombat/Vombatus/ursinus.html )

In the study area alone, it was revealed that an average of 8.9 wombats were killed each month on the Snowy Mountains Highway alone, an average of 92.3 each year. These are alarming statistics, considering that almost one quarter (24.9%) of wombat populations reside in protected areas. Wombats generally only produce one young at a time, and the juvenile will stay with their mother for 18 months, spending approximately 6 months still in her pouch and another year by her side.

Protected areas are established in order to provide a safe habitat for wild animals to occupy, however, these do not provide adequate protection for any species, whether rare or abundant. Many highways throughout Australia cut through national parks and other protected areas, contradicting the security of the ‘protected’ areas.

Highways and major roads link a variety of cities across New South Wales and the ACT, the ideal locations for wombat populations. Road-side environments provide ideal habitats for wombats as they have shorter grass, are usually sloped, and have plenty of room for burrows.

To achieve accurate results, scientists adapted a two-stage approach. First, data was collected from local areas on wombat fatalities, then this was applied to an estimated wombat population dispersal model.

Evidence from this study also found that a species behaviour and climate heavily impacted on road fatalities due to road-avoidance and migration. Results also concluded that road networks in well-connected landscapes appear to be a serious threat to long-term population stability and viability of wombats.

 

Why does this matter?

This study was conducted using one of the most abundant native Australian species, and has indicated from results that many different species could be under threat from the exact same issue. The number of wombat fatalities that are occurring Australia-wide are becoming problematic, and may soon apply to other wild animals.

 

How you can help

Drive carefully, and be diligent when travelling through rural and remote areas.

You can report injured wildlife to your local RSPCA or veterinarian.

For more information on wombat conservation visit; The Wombat Protection Society of Australia  or ask about projects at your local zoo or wildlife centre.

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