Common Wombat Population Monitoring and Mange Prevalence
Common wombat (a.k.a bare-nosed wombat, Vombatus ursinus) populations throughout south-eastern Australia are affected by sarcoptic mange, which is caused by the parasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei. The parasite is of human origin and although mange is widespread in common wombat populations in south-eastern Australia, only occassionally does it cause large population declines.
There are three subspecies of common wombats in Tasmania, one (V. u. hirsutis) that occurs on mainland SE Australia and two (V. u. tasmaniensis and V. u. ursinus) that are endemic to Tasmania. There is currently no national common wombat population monitoring program, and to date Tasmania is the only jurisdiction that regularly monitors trends in their two endemic subspecies of common wombat populations, including documenting the prevalence of mange.
Monitoring of common wombats in Narawntapu National Park in central north Tasmania between 2010 and 2016 by the University of Tasmania documented a decrease in the resident wombat population in the park of 94% as a result of sarcoptic mange.
Notwithstanding this outbreak, recent monitoring of mange prevalence in common wombat populations in Tasmania has shown an overall low level of mange across most parts of the state. In addition, long term data from DPIPWE’s annual spotlight survey has shown that state wide, wombat populations have generally increased between 1985 and now.
Recognising the animal welfare issues associated with mange in wombats, the Tasmanian Government is supporting the University of Tasmania to investigate and trial a new mange treatment option. The goal of this research is to develop a single-dose treatment for wombat mange that would eliminate the challenge of applying multiple doses to affected wombats in the wild.