Prague Zoo has just welcomed its first wombat

Wombat is a marsupial native to Australia. There are three subspecies of wombats: the southern and northern hairy wombat and the common wombat. New tenant of Prague Zoo, Cooper is a common wombat, but he has the special thing about being a Tasmanian wombat, a subspecies of this common wombat, which, as the name suggests, is native to Tasmania and is slightly smaller. Yolandi Vermaak describes what a wombat looks like:

Yolandi Entertainment |  Photo: Wombat Support & Rescue

“People often compare wombats to small bears because they are very dense. Adults, they can weigh up to forty kilos. Their muscles are quite dense. They are also called bush bulldozers because they are literally bulldozers through everything. They are incredibly strong animals. .

The females have a scrotum because they are marsupials. We have a couple of marsupials in Australia and wombat is one of them. The difference between all other marsupials and pods is that their pouch faces backwards, and when the mother digs her den, dirt cannot enter the pouch and disturb the baby as it is backwards facing, so it is an incredibly interesting evolutionary feature of wombats.

By the way, when a baby is born, it is about twenty millimeters long, it is a very small thing of two grams and that is how it reaches forty kilos in adulthood. In captivity it can live over thirty years, whereas in nature it estimates that it lives five years because of all the challenges it faces. The young people live with their mother between 18 and 24 months.

And baby wombat |  Photo: Tim Sagorski, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Probably the most famous thing about wombats is their cube-shaped excrement. When they defecate, they do so on rocks to mark their territory. »

Wombat excrement |  Photo: Wombat Protection Society

Wombats are so known for the uniqueness of their excrement that the Prague Zoo had fun offering visitors “womba cubes”, marzipan treats and biscuits in the form of dice reminiscent of feces, to say the least, original marsupial.

Wombats are also known for their ability to dig caves up to 20 or 30 meters long, where each tunnel itself consists of a series of tunnels that end in a “chamber” where the wombat sleeps. Thus, wombats create veritable underground labyrinths, even if they use only one entrance.

wombats |  Photo: Wombat Support & Rescue

This ability to dig tunnels posed a real logistical problem for the zoo teams. To prevent Cooper from digging a tunnel that was too long and fleeing the Prague Zoo, its director Miroslav Bobek installed steel nets buried up to two meters underground.

These tunnels are not just a curiosity about nature. They can also have an important function. In fact, Australia is regularly ravaged by terrible fires, which have a catastrophic effect on local fauna and flora. However, some animals find refuge in these caves. If it can be tempting to make them heroic animals, saviors of their fellow creatures, Yolandi Vermaak reminds us that we must not embellish reality, and that it is, above all, happy coincidence:

“What happens is that the animals seek shelter during fires, so it is a happy case, it is not the case that the ruminants bring the animals into the caves. Wombats probably sleep deep in caves when this happens. When the fire starts, the animals instinctively know how to seek shelter: If there is a cave and they are small enough, they will use it. »

Wombat Cooper |  Photo: Petr Hamernik, Prague Zoo

Although wombats are relatively well protected from fires, Yolandi Vermaak informs us that they are still an endangered species in Australia.

“The three subspecies have different conservation status, the northern hairy nose is critically endangered, a little over 200 are left in the wild. The southern hairy nose is close to endangered, it is on the verge of extinction and will therefore one day become an endangered species. The common wombat is not listed as endangered at present. We think it will change in about 20 years as their numbers drop drastically, but so far they are not threatened. »

wombats |  Photo: Wombat Support & Rescue

Among the reasons for this decline are nature’s challenges, such as bush fires or floods, these certainly cause the most damage because wombats like to build their caves near waterways and therefore risk drowning.

Humans also have a role to play in their disappearance, as slaughter permits are still issued to Australian farmers who do not hesitate to slaughter wombats when they cause damage to their farms.

wombats |  Photo: Wombat Support & Rescue

Man is thus, unfortunately, probably the second predator in the wombat, after the dingoes. However, according to Yolandi, wombats are not aggressive animals and will not attack humans. These animals, which are, it must be remembered, herbivores, fight almost exclusively among themselves to preserve their territory.

However, what has accelerated the decline of wombat populations so alarming is the epidemic of sarcoptic scabies currently raging in Australia. 70% of wombats are likely to be affected and when a wombat is ill its mortality rate is 100%.

wombats |  Photo: Wombat Support & Rescue

It is especially to raise awareness on this topic that the Wombat Rescue Association was founded. It sets up programs to treat scabies in areas where wombats are sick with sarcoptic scabies and seek to raise awareness and educate Australians about the suffering of these animals. The association is also trying to change the legislation and establish a dialogue with the authorities, while intervening directly by making rounds to save wombats in distress, such as sick wombats or babies whose mothers have been beaten down.

Wombat Cooper can be seen in the 'Darwin Crater' pavilion |  Photo: Petr Hamernik, Prague Zoo

In this fight to save the wombats, Yolandi considers the work in zoos, as in the Czech capital, to be crucial:

“People need to see wombats. If you see the animal up close, the message will come out much better. In terms of conservation, it is extremely important that zoos continue to have this role of promoting protection messages by showing the public that they too have the means to help the associations that protect them and thus have an influence. “

Welcoming Cooper the wombat is an example of Prague Zoo’s commitment to protecting and protecting endangered species among many others. We remember, for example, the horses in Przewalski, an area threatened with extinction, which zoologicals have welcomed for several years to acclimatize individuals in Prague and then release them into the wild in Mongolia.

And for those who might be worried about Cooper’s loneliness in Prague, you can be sure he’s a mostly lonely species:

Wombat Cooper |  Photo: Petr Hamernik, Prague Zoo

“The southern hair-nose wombat lives in families, but the common wombat does not. The males are very lonely and the females live with their young. If they share caves, each has its own room. They do not come out so well from what they could share caves, but they do not like each other so much and are therefore quite lonely. I do not think Cooper would die from being alone, but it would be nice for him to have a companion. »

Cooper can be seen in the Prague Zoo in the “wombat” enclosure. We wish him that other wombats will join him soon!

Leave a Comment