The Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat

Critically endangered

Animal Group: Mammal
Regions: Oceania
Sub-regions: Australia and New Zealand
Countries: Australia

The northern hairy-nosed wombat is one of the largest land mammals in the world. One of three wombat species, the northern hairy-nosed wombat is also the world's largest burrowing herbivore. Being marsupial (meaning that it gestates its young in an external pouch for a significant length of time) the northern hairy-nosed wombat is also nocturnal, spending day light hours in a burrows which the species has been known to share with up to ten other individuals at a time.

Being a highly specialized animal, the northern hairy-nosed wombat is able to maintain a humid and relatively stable temperature inside its burrows and it is believed that this humidity helps the wombat conserve moisture during periods of particularly dry and arid weather.

Like all three wombat species, northern hairy-nosed wombats are heavily built creatures with a broad head and short but very powerful legs and claws which the wombat uses to dig. Moreover, although regarded as slow and clumsy due to the swaying motion which northern hairy-nosed wombats demonstrate when walking they are actually quite agile. Indeed, in short spurts the wombat can run 40km/h over short distances. However, northern hairy-nosed wombats also have incredibly poor eyesight and are largely dependent in a sensory capacity on their noses.

Eating native and imported grass leaves, the northern hairy-nosed wombat eats for about six hours overnight in winter as opposed to just 2 hours during summer months. Also, in times of food scarcity the species is able to last for multiple periods of days without food.

Population Distribution

The northern hairy-nosed wombat is indigenous to Australia and was once found almost all over Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. However, the species has declined to such an extent since European colonization of Australia, that it can now only be found at two dedicated protection sites.


The chief threat to the northern hairy-nosed wombat is its small population size. Numbering a total of 163 individual animals and only found in captivity, the continued existence of the northern hairy-nosed wombat is threatened by everything from potential local catastrophes to loss of genetic diversity and in breeding.

One of the main causes of decline of the northern hairy-nosed wombat has been predation by dingos.' In fact, between 2000 and 2003 10% of the then northern hairy-nosed wombat population was wiped out by wild dog attacks alone. Diseases from domestic pet animal feces also pose a significant threat. However, competition for food is just as much a problem for the northern hairy-nosed wombat, as habitat loss due to the fact that the species present isolated habitat forces it to compete for food with eastern grey kangaroos. Likewise, wildfires pose a significant threat to the northern hairy-nosed wombat but not due to fires themselves. Rather, wombats are adept at surviving this particular catastrophe by hiding in their burrows. Fire however, destroys the wombats already restricted food supply. Indeed it has already been demonstrated that in particularly dry spells the northern hairy-nosed wombat suffers everything from greater infant mortality to disease.