Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons) in Western Australia; out of sight, out of mind (#141)

Michael J Swinbourne 1 , David Taggart 1 , Bertram Ostendorf 1
  1. University of Adelaide, Urrbrae, South Australia, Australia

Our knowledge regarding the distribution and abundance of southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons) (SHNW) in Western Australia (WA) is scant and out of date. A search of the scientific literature and public domain provides virtually no information on SHNW in WA. This is likely to have arisen because of the need to address other wildlife priorities with the available state-based research funding, and the remote location where the species is found. As a consequence, virtually all SHNW research has been undertaken in South Australia (SA) where the majority of the population is located. The deficit in research effort in WA impacts estimates of the overall species’ abundance, which have omitted the WA population from their calculations. As a result, extant estimates of wombat abundance almost certainly understate the true situation.

Using a combination of satellite imagery, field surveys and conversations with landholders, we surveyed the south-eastern region of WA in order to determine the distribution and abundance of wombats in the area. Our results show that there is a significant and expanding population of SHNW in WA. Wombats can be found in an area between the coast and the trans-continental railway line, from the South Australian border to around Caiguna; an area of ~ 20,000 km2. The population density varies, but is highest near the SA border. Our initial abundance estimate suggests that there is likely to be upwards of 50,000 wombats in the state. The importance of this population is discussed in view of potential climate change impacts.