ABOUT THE ANIMAL
The northern hairy-nosed wombat is one of three extant species of wombat. Growing up to a meter long and weighing up to 40 kg, the northern hairy-nosed wombat is the biggest species of wombat and the largest herbivorous burrowing mammal in the world.
Northern hairy-nosed wombats differ from common wombats with their distinctive pointed ears, broad muzzle and furry noses which (along with their strong claws) they use for borrowing. They spend 80% of their time in their burrows which take a day to dig and are shared by up to 10 wombats, equally divided by sex.
Historically, the northern hairy-nosed wombat’s range extended across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland but is now restricted to a 3-km range within the Epping Forest National Park in Queensland due to being hunted by wild dogs, disease and habitat loss. With an estimate 230 individuals alive they are by far the most endangered species of wombat and one of the world’s rarest mammals. In the early 20th century, the northern hairy-nosed wombat was thought to be extinct. But luckily that was not true. Even so, there is still a long way for them to go before they are out of the red zone.
Originally one of the main threats was a shortage of food due to competition from livestock. Now the cows aren't so much of an issue but the eastern grey kangaroo is still there to munch away their grass. There are also threats from predation from wild dogs, risks from drought, floods and fires, disease, and of course all the risks that come with having such a tiny population size (like genetic diversity). A lot of wonderful work has been put into conservation efforts for this adorable marsupial such as habitat protection and the creation of a second colony. But there is still a lot more work to be done.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Dunny was given her nickname by the park rangers who observed the wombat grazing in the evening around the toilet area, colloquially known as ‘the dunny’ by cheeky Australians! She is also the mother of a wombat who is lovingly known as Dunny Junior or DJ for short.
A little more adventurous than the other 250 northern hairy-nosed wombats, Dunny and DJ have often been observed emerging from the burrow each night at about 5:30 pm. Popular with the park rangers, the pair have even been known to approach the rangers camp to graze on fresh grass and drink water from the tank. While they keep their distance, the pair have a bond with the rangers who protect them and the other members of their species who rely on humans for protection from predators and introduced species. As a breeding female, Dunny is very important to the future of northern hairy-nosed wombat and if her personality is anything to go by, she is a good sign of things to come!
The Wombat Foundation: Formed in 2004, The Wombat Foundation is the only organisation dedicated exclusively to the conservation of the northern hairy-nosed wombat. Their efforts are geared towards funding research to better understand the wombats and their habits, community outreach to get more people involved in protecting the wombats and most important conservation.
The Wombat Foundation supports the volunteer caretaker program that has seen the population of northern hairy-nosed wombats grow from 35 to 230 in 30 years and was instrumental in setting up a new conservation site in southern Queensland.
While the foundation has had amazing success in growing the northern hairy-nosed wombat population, their Epping Forest conservation space is expected to be at capacity by 2025 and there is still a long way to go before the species is ready to be introduced into its historic range. Donations go towards continued research and conservation efforts as well as funding future conservation sites.
HOW TO HELP
The sculpture will be aligned with the hashtag #LoveTheLast. Visitors will be asked to take a photo with the artwork and share it with the hashtag, jump-starting efforts to spread critical awareness. To help protect the hairy-nosed wombat you can give a donation to any of the many amazing foundations such as The Wombat Foundation: https://www.wombatfoundation.com.au/