Everyone is chipping in to help Australia recover from chronic drought—including the wombats. These cuties are being called heroes for burrowing down to an underground water supply and providing water to a drought-affected area in New South Wales.
Beef farmer Ted Finnie lives in Hunter Valley in an area that has had almost no rain for three years. There has been a hole on his property for a while, but it has recently grown larger as wombats dig deeper during the drought.
“It’s best described as being a crater,” he said. “And as the crater has dried out due to the drought the wombats have burrowed to get closer to the water and so they’ve gone underground a little bit.”
Finnie said the “wombat soak” was often used by wombats, kangaroos, wallabies and wallaroos—but since the drought, it’s become more important to a wider variety of animals. A camera recently set up by the Hunter Region Landcare Network showed birds, goannas, possums, echidnas, and even emus drinking from the hole.
Finnie, who is a retired Taronga Zoo veterinarian, explained how the wombats were responsible.
“I think it’s really quite surprising how intelligent wombats are in the matter of survival; they are great survivors. Especially given the fact that they are able to source this water supply fairly deep down,” he said. “They’re the ones keeping the hole open and accessible.”
Dr. Julie Old of Western Sydney University said Finnie’s wombat soak was unique. The biologist noted that she was not aware of any other instances of wombats digging for water.
“It’s almost like the wombats are water diviners, they’re finding the water and digging the holes to get to the water and the other animals are taking advantage of it,” she said. “We often call wombats ecological engineers because they’re digging burrows and they make habitats for other animals.”