Southern hairy nosed wombats and dingos – can we teach them to be scared?

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RESEARCH AREA
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Southern hairy-nosed wombat Lasiorhynus latifrons near a warreen entrance in the mallee of Yookamurra Wildlife Sanctuary, Murray Lands region of South Australia, site of endangered species recovery projects conducted by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

This week’s featured research article has just been published in the Australian Journal of Zoology by ZoosSA staff and trials dingo scents over 75 days to determine their influence on southern hairy-nosed wombats. Southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons) are fossorial marsupials that live in large burrow systems where their digging behaviour brings them into conflict with agriculture. In the absence of any available control options, non-selective culling is the primary mode of wombat management. This approach is contentious and has unknown implications for long-term wombat conservation. Predator scents, however, have been effective in altering behaviours of some herbivores and may offer a non-lethal alternative to culling if they discourage wombats from burrowing in perceived problem areas. The researchers trialled two dingo scents (faeces, urine) over 75 days to determine whether these scents would deter wombats from repopulating collapsed burrows. After 75 days, the five sites treated with dingo scents had minimal activity and no new burrows, while wombats recolonised all control burrows. This research suggests the need for further testing of dingo scents as a tool for dissuading wombats from digging and recolonisation of collapsed burrows. The researchers conclude by saying that this study represents a novel use for a predator scent, in that prey may remain in the vicinity near the deterrent, but curb problematic behaviours of economic consequence. The article can be downloaded here