Whatever you do, do NOT feed the wombats.
The wombats are on a special diet today at the Cleland Wildlife Park, Adelaide, South Australia, hence the sign requesting that they not be fed. But mostly you must stay clear of wombats because they bite.
This was not at all what I expected. Sort of a scruffly, shambling along creature, the wombat made no noise to alarm us, but he is all business. This southern hairy-nosed wombat is a powerfully built, burrowing marsupial who comes out at dusk to feed on native grasses–or during the day to see who’s wandered into the neighborhood. He had no fear of us, but then he is protected by law. There are little more than 100 wombats of the hairy-nose variety (southern and northern) in existence, owing to the early 1900s drought and death by dingo.
Aborigines feasted on common wombats, more plentiful than the hairy-nosed ones, but farmers and graziers found them to be just a pest. Farmers here gripe about gopher holes; imagine the size of a wombat burrow! Weighing from 70-90 pounds, wombats make big holes in the ground (and terrible messes of cars on the highway).
Maybe I shouldn’t have been sitting there, dangling my sandaled foot over the side, but I wanted to see this amazing creature from as close as possible. He has fine hairs around his nose that help stem water loss, but he never came close enough for me to tickle them, so I don’t know if they’re like my dog’s whiskers. Even though he looked rather pig-like, his coat (I’ve read) is soft and silky. I didn’t feed him, nor did I touch.
It didn’t take Jack (male wombats are jacks) long to figure out I was just paparazzi, so he made his way back to some carrots hidden in the shade (where he also had a friend–Jill). As I studied his girth, and equated him with swine, I wondered if he might be tasty.
Wombats have square poop. Why? So it won’t roll off of rocks. Which is very helpful if you have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell, and if you otherwise would not be able to find your way home.
Seems like a good place to end this Home and Away story.