|image courtesy of JK Melville|
The other day, I met a lovely local lady who is an Australian Wildlife Carer. And, to my delightful surprise, I also met three of her orphaned “charges”… baby Bare-nosed or Common Wombats!
Although, there’s nothing common about these fascinating marsupials*. They are unusual, unique and beautiful.
These little cuties are all around eight months old, and have their own distinct personality!
This is the first time I have ever seen a wombat face to face, let alone been able to pet and hold one after I had happily snapped away on my camera. And what a privilege it was.
Check out these little guys, aren't they adorable?
None of these cuties are related, but they are more than content to play with, and then snuggle up to, each other in fleecy pouches hanging from their baby cot :)
C'mon out and play!
Awww, snuggle time.
Common wombats are one of three species of wombats, and are only found in southern and eastern parts of Australia, including Tasmania. They prefer cool forested, rocky/mountainous regions.
And, I'm happy to say that I now live in "wombat country".
I have seen a couple of adults ambling into the undergrowth on our walks and drives at dusk, but they are pretty elusive.
The adults are incredibly strong, stout and built close to the ground. They grow to between 90-120cm (35-48 inches) in length and some males can weigh up to 35kg (78lbs).
At these sizes, they can manoeuvre their way through most obstacles, earning them the nick name, “bulldozers of the bush”.
These claws will only get stronger and tougher – perfectly designed for burrowing into hard earth.
You can read more interesting facts on these amazing animals here
On one hand, it is a joy and a treat to be able to have the opportunity to cuddle with these wild creatures of the Australian bush. But sadly, on the other, it means that their mother has been killed.
Wombats come out of their burrows at twilight to roam and forage. Although they can be fairly quick, on the road, they are no match for trucks or fast cars.
Fortunately, there are good samaritans who, on seeing a dead wombat (or wallaby or roo) by the road, stop to check to see if it is a female, and if there is the chance of a baby in her pouch.
If there is, they can call the experts.
There are bright yellow reflective road signs throughout the countryside that have “injured wildlife” 24 hr emergency numbers to ring if one comes across, or unfortunately hits, an animal.
These will be directed to wildlife rescue and carers on call.
It's a good idea that people enter these numbers into their mobile phones, just in case.
I have a lot of admiration for the carers of orphaned wildlife. They dedicate their lives, day and night, to rearing them. Giving them a second chance, so that most can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
Many years ago, a tiny orphan kangaroo was handed to us by a vet nurse.
With diligence and care, we hand-reared her successfully until she was old enough to be returned to a national wildlife park.
Sometime after that, the ranger of the area, who we'd kept in touch with from time to time, told us that he'd seen "Cleo" with a joey in her pouch.
There's something incredibly satisfying about knowing she was well and had assimilated with her own mob.
I understand, if only just a little, the huge task it is to care for more than one tiny creature who relies on constant feeds and complete care.
But, the rewards are ten-fold.
So, here’s to uniquely beautiful wildlife the world over, and to their devoted guardian angels – the wildlife carers.
*Marsupial - a group of mammals that give birth to their young at an early stage of their development. After birth, the young crawl up the mother's body and into the safety of her pouch located on the abdomen.