There are three species of wombats in Australia; the Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus), the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii) and the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons). They can be found in forested, mountainous and heathland areas of south-eastern Australia and Tasmania.
Wombats are stout marsupial mammals that can weigh up to 36 kg. They have a large, blunt head and a short neck. Their sharp claws and stubby, powerful legs make them great diggers. Despite their slow appearance, wombats can run up to 40km/hr. The life span of these marsupials is between 15 and 20 years. One distinctive adaptation of wombats is their backwards pouch. The advantage of a backwards-facing pouch is that when digging, the wombat does not gather dirt in its pouch, leaving the young clean and safe. The wombat shares its special backward facing pouch with its closest relative the koala.
Wombats dig extensive burrow systems up to 30 metres long and several metres deep for shelter and to escape from danger. They sleep in the safety of their burrows during the day, emerging at night to feed on native grasses such wallaby grass and kangaroo grass, sedges and roots of shrubs and trees. They cut their food with sharp front teeth which grow continuously.
The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat was found across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland as recently as 100 years ago, but is now restricted to a 3 km² range within the 32 km² Epping Forest National Park in Queensland. It is one of the rarest large mammals in the world and is critically endangered.