The San Diego Zoo received its first wombat, a common wombat, in 1927. We have had four southern hairy-nosed wombats born here over the years, starting in 1998. The proud parents were Kindyerra, whose name means “grass” in the Australian Aboriginal language, and Kambera, whose name means “father.”
This pair continues to live here and can be seen in the Zoo's Australian Outback. Keepers say that both of our wombats are very curious and are quite interested when new furniture, plants, or enrichment is placed in their enclosures. When they are not in their cave or burrows, they are generally underfoot checking out everything the keepers are doing. Kindyerra has a designated brush and happily allows us to brush her coat. Kambera, also known as Dick, likes to back up to the rake when keepers are cleaning to have his bottom scratched!
In 1906, the Australian government declared wombats pests and encouraged people to kill them. From 1925 to 1965, some 63,000 wombat skins were redeemed for cash. Fortunately, this practice has stopped. Today, although the common wombat and southern hairy-nosed wombat populations are more stable than that of the northern hairy-nosed wombat, all three species face an uncertain future. Land clearing, habitat competition with cattle, poison bait set out for rabbit control, drought, road deaths, predation, and disease are all ongoing threats.
But the northern hairy-nosed wombat is in danger of becoming extinct. Currently, there are just over 100 individuals, all found in Epping Forest National Park, located in eastern Australia. Grazing sheep and cattle, as well as a long drought, have reduced the grasslands the wombat needs to survive. Dingoes killed a good number of northern hairy-nosed wombats in 2000, but in 2002, a fence was built around the Park to help protect this wombat species from predators. It is hoped this will help the wombat make a comeback.
In February 2009, bushfires raged through Australia’s state of Victoria, charring more than 1 million acres. Millions of Australian animals—including wombats—perished. San Diego Zoo Global helped to support wildlife rescue and rehabilitation work after the deadly bushfires.