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Wombats are large burrowing marsupials found in coastal regions from South East Queensland, through New South Wales, down into Victoria and along to the South Eastern part of South Australia. They are also found on the islands of Bass Strait and also in Tasmania.
Related to the koala, the wombat is a burrowing marsupial which belongs to the family Vombatidae.
During the day, wombats stay in their underground burrows. At night they search for food, eating grasses, roots, and the inner bark of trees. Mating occurs in spring, and the young are born not fully developed. Their growth is completed in the mother's pouch.
Their habit of burrowing makes them unpopular with landowners, especially when the digging damages fences. Wombats are easily kept in captivity but, unfortunately, breeding in such conditions is rarely successful.
Wombats grow to over 1 meter in length. They have a thickset stout body; broad, blunt head; short legs; short neck and no tail.
The Common Wombat has coarse brown fur while those of the hairy-nosed species have a fine, silky coat, short hair on the nose, and longer ears.
The hairy-nosed species are adapted to living in arid conditions. Their bodies can conserve moisture and, during summer, they emerge from their burrows only at night to feed.
They are powerful burrowing vegetarians which feed nocturnally on tree roots, bark and grasses.
These marsupials belong to the family Vombatidae (order Diprotodonta), distantly related to the possums and the koala.
There are two genera: the Common Wombat, Vombatus ursinus, is the only species in the genus Vombatus, and there are two species of hairy-nosed wombats in the genus Lasiorhinus.
The Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus) is the most widely distributed species being found mainly in wet or dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands, especially in rocky areas. The coarse hair is brown or black, the snout is naked, the ears are short and the pouch, as in all wombats, opens backwards.
It is found in south-eastern Queensland, eastern New South Wales, southern Victoria, south-eastern South Australia, Tasmania and the Bass Strait islands.
In contrast, the hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) which is found in more arid regions, seems to have a diminishing population. It is a grey-brown animal, or grey with mottlings of browns and blacks but can be distinguished with certainty from its southern relative by certain skull measurements and softer fur than the common wombat.
Two species of hairy-nosed wombat occur in smaller populations in drier plains areas in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.
The largest of these animals may have a length of more than a metre and a weight exceeding 30kg. They are very strong and their burrows, usually dug in a hillside, may extend a distance of 15 meters. Pouches on the female are backward-opening and only a single youngster is born each year, although some twins have been known.
Hairy-nosed wombats are protected by law and the Common Wombat is protected in New South Wales and some other areas.
Merit Students Encyclopedia, Volume 19, P.F. Collier Inc, 1979. Page 538.
Australian Encyclopedia, Collins Publishers, 1984. Page 703.
Concise Encyclopaedia of Australia and New Zealand, 1977, Bay Books. Page 471.
Concise Australian Encyclopaedia, Second Edition, 1986, Angus & Robertson. Page 483.