Wombat conservation program's cause for celebration at nature refuge

Authors: Fred McKie, NPAQ Communications Officer

Image courtesy Queensland Government

Richard Underwood Nature Refuge is celebrating the arrival of the first northern hairy-nosed wombat joey recorded in Queensland for five years.

The wombat joey has emerged from its mother’s pouch at the nature refuge near St George to the delight of staff and landowners - and night-vision video of the joey has been captured for us all to share in the moment!

The endangered northern hairy-nosed wombat is one of the world's rarest species. It is estimated that there are only 250 of the marsupials in the wild.

Highlighting the importance of the various land tenures in the protected area estate and the role they play in aiding endangered species, the population almost doubled since the successful reintroduction program commenced at the nature refuge in 2009. At that time, the only known colony in Queensland – also in a protected area, Epping Forest National Park – numbered just 138.

However, there have been no new joeys at the nature refuge since 2012, which makes the new arrival all the more exciting.

Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles says wildlife officers have been keenly observing mum’s growing pouch, eagerly awaiting the joey’s arrival, for 10 months.

“It’s been a long wait for the wombat specialist team, but finally it’s confirmed that the joey has successfully left the pouch,” Dr Miles says.

“The joey was shy at first, preferring to stay close to its mother but it’s expected to become a lot more active now that it has stepped out of the pouch.

“This little joey is an important new arrival for the colony and highlights that this refuge provides suitable conditions for successful breeding.”

The refuge, on land owned by Ed and Gabriele Underwood, includes predator-proof fencing, water stations and wildlife monitoring equipment to capture footage of the wombats.