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Wild Animals/Wombats in captivity

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Question
Hi! I am doing an assignment about Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombats and I need to know what are the economic implications of acquiring, maintaining and displaying this species at a zoo, but I am not able to fund information about it. It is not necessary to have a value, just an idea of whether this species will be expensive to maintain and why, and whether the costs can be offset against new publicity and hence increased visitation. May you help me with that? Thank you!!

Answer
Dear Bruna

Thank you for your question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

I have seen southern hairy-nosed wombats in a few zoos and I doubt if the northern species would be more difficult to maintain and display.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_hairy-nosed_wombat says that it is restricted to a 300 hectares in the 32-km2 Epping Forest National Park in Queensland. The 2010 census estimated a population of 163 individuals, which seems to be growing slowly but steadily.

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Lasiorhinus_krefftii/#conservatio says that Ep­ping For­est pop­u­la­tions have only 41% of the vari­abil­ity of the ex­tinct pop­u­la­tion from Deniliquin, New South Wales. This suggests that the northern hairy-nosed wombat is a a bot­tle­necked species in steady de­cline and that there would be problems breeding the species to attain a viable genetic diversity.

Christopher Johnson (http://theconversation.com/australian-endangered-species-northern-hairy-nosed-wo) says that the northern hairy-nosed wombat was thought to be extinct early in the 20th century, but in the 1930s, a small population was discovered in what is now Epping Forest National Park in central Queensland. The wombat lives in a dry tropical environment, where most rain falls in an unreliable summer wet season. Several good wet seasons in succession may be needed for females to breed and for their young to survive to weaning. Wombats were transferred from Epping Forest to the RRichard Underwood Nature Refuge in 2009.  Conservationists are looking for a place to establish a third and larger population.

http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/11343/0 says there are no Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats in captivity. Conservation plans include developing  captive techniques on southern Hairy-nosed Wombats are being used to improve wombat captive breeding and reproductive monitoring techniques.

It seems that conservationists are still trying to find out how to maximise northern hairy-nosed wombat populations in the wild before they set up captive populations. Taking wombats from the wild could be detrimental to small populations. When I visited Madagascar, I saw a large enclosure that had been created in a reserve. It had housed indris to prepare them for life in a zoo. The indris died, even though the habitat was the same as in the wild. Similarly, many Sumatran rhinoceroses were captured for zoos, but many of these did not reach the zoos or died relatively soon afterwards. I think this is the reason that conservationists are being cautious with the wombat. You may be interested to know that there are also plans to clone the species (see http://www.wildlifewatchers.org/esReports/report16.html and http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=99180), which could be useful to establish captive collections.

Please note, the Zoological Society of London Library has at least one book about maintaining marsupials in captivity. I'll try and get some relevant information from the book next Tuesday.

All the best

Jonathan

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Jonathan Wright

Expertise

I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.

Experience

I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

Organizations
WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Publications
Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

Education/Credentials
BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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