The Sarcoptic Mite – Wiping out our Wombats
A more hideous death sentence could not be imagined. This parasite burrows
into the wombat’s skin, first targeting the softer moist areas such as the ears
and eyes, and in a female wombat, the pouch. So yes, if there is a joey, it is
also infected. The mites reproduce, tunneling into the wombat's skin, feeding off its blood serum, encasing the wombat in a thick crust of scabs from the
animal’s scratching, leading to open wounds which are attractive to flies who
lay their eggs in the open wounds. Maggots grow and start eating at the wombat,
maggots will enter the wombat’s body through its body openings and start eating
at the wombat from the inside. All this will take months. The wombat will start
to come out during daylight hours to eat as it is starving to death, with
eventual organ failure and death. This is the death sentence inflicted on
wombats since white settler occupation of Australia, and the introduction of
non-native species such as foxes, who also suffer this parasite. Foxes
are also a perfect vector for the sarcoptic mite, foxes will enter wombat
burrows, thus spreading the infection into the environment. Wombat to wombat infection
also occurs. Wombats will move about from burrow to burrow, further spreading
the mites into the environment.
Places reported to us in the past few months alone:
NSW - Bathurst, Bega, Bendeela Recreation Area (managed by Water NSW), Berry, Bowral, Braidwood, Bungendore, Burra, Captains Flat, Cobargo, Collector, Cooma, Coorongooba Campground (Glen Davis,part of Wollemi National Park - NPWS), Cowra, Currawang, Dalton, Goulburn, Gundaroo, Gunning, Hall, Jamberoo, Jaspers Brush, Kangaroo Valley, Lithgow, Majors Creek, Marulan, Mayfair, Moruya, Mudgee, Nerriga, Newcastle, Newnes Campground (part of Wollemi National Park - NPWS), Nowra, Orange, Perisher, Robertson, Tarago, Taralga, Tilba Tilba, Wee Jasper, Windellama, Wingecaribbee, Yass, Young
ACT - Bonython, Murrumbidgee River Corridor, Uriarra
Victoria - Bonnie Doon, Menzies Creek
A Case of Animal Cruelty and Neglect
The NSW Department of Primary Industries uses the following criterion as one of the definitions of animal cruelty: “Animals which are left untreated following an injury or illness”
Do you think you are lucky with your property bordering a national park in New South Wales? You can be rest assured that you will have no wombats in the next 2 decades, the NSW government is currently ensuring this. Just one example, the Bendeela Recreation Area, has had sightings of manged wombats going back 30 years. Nothing has been done to help these animals.
At present the Australian and State Governments are doing nothing to control or manage mange within wombat populations and are leaving wombats in national park areas to suffer and eventually succumb and die, in full public view. This has to be one of the largest acts of animal neglect and cruelty, in full public view and nothing is being said or done. Sarcoptic mange is going to be the demise of this species in 2 decades we believe. For some unknown reason it has been left unactioned within Australia and reached epidemic proportions years ago. Still no action from the Government. Why?
The current number of wombats dying of mange is not sustainable to the species. The fact that wombats can now be seen suffering from this parasite in public places, tourist sites in full view, sick, dying or in fact dead is beyond belief. It surely has to be one of the largest cases of animal neglect in Australia currently, leading to animal cruelty as the death for a wombat with mange is long, very long with horrific suffering. Why wombats are being left to suffer in full public view is another question.
We have been watching the neglect continue, escalate and in some areas take over entire micro populations with no action to even end the suffering, let alone treat or help the wombats in question. The amount of wombats who need immediate assistance grows each week. The reality of helping these wombats listed, before they die is minimal due to the vast extent of areas now infected across New South Wales. The fact the Australian Government is not assisting in national parks and such areas leaves a lot of questions to be answered, however wombats don't have the luxury of this time anymore.
What We are Doing
We intend to change this for wombats, change it completely. We will tell you just what is really happening.
We are receiving and recording all sightings of manged wombats.
We are highlighting the plight of manged wombats through our Facebook page and other media.
We want to raise $100,000 through our GoFundMe campaign to build quarantine facilities/hospital burrows for treatment of the less severely affected wombats in our area. Yes it is a large sum of money but it is small in terms of what is needed. If we are successful in our request, the additional funds raised through this campaign will also support quarantine facilities at other wombat sanctuaries. This infrastructure will be built for now, and for future generations to use. The intention is that the work and funding put into these stages will be set in concrete for wombats and working with wombats and mange. For Sleepy Burrows, the funds will be directed to building new large, hardfenced enclosures (corrugated tin sheeting) with hospital bunker burrows for adult wombats, quarantined away from our current enclosures system for juvenile and ready-to-release healthy wombats.What else we have done:
We have written to the NSW Environment Minister to offer our expertise and for the Minister to visit our Sanctuary to see firsthand how we will treat manged wombats. We have received a response which in a nutshell advised that NPWS/Office of Environment and Heritage are awaiting the documented outcomes of a NPWS 2015 mange treatment program at Bents Basin before they will do anything to assist sick and dying wombats in other areas managed by NSW government authorities, such as Bendeela Recreation Area. Meanwhile the wombats continue to suffer.
We have written to Water NSW, the authority charged with the caretaking of
the Bendeela Recreation Area, to offer our expertise to help manged wombats in
that area. We are awaiting a written response, having received a telephone call from a communications officer from whom we requested a written response addressing our concern.
We are going to start somewhere, we simply cannot sit and 'wait' and watch this anymore. We are going to start at the sanctuary, and extend our work and knowledge further afield and set up similar quarantine stations for wombats within NSW. Yes, we will need to fund this all. Yes, we will need to educate and teach regarding this. No, we will not save all the wombats, most will die BUT we have to start somewhere.
We can, through this infrastructure start to ensure that some wombats will survive, that some wombats will be relocated to mange free areas afterwards and that the wombats suffering so hideously will be put to rest, and that the wombats with mange, who are not going to ever respond to treatment can be highlighted and helped in a humane way.
The Burrow Flap Treatment Method
There are a number of individuals and community groups working on this method. It is heartening that the people involved care so much about the situation and are prepared to do something about it. And it will help a small group of wombats for a short time. Unfortunately it has not proven to be a treatment method that works long term. Sleepy Burrows has asked a number of times for the evidence that the burrow flap treatment method works long term. Unfortunately we are not able to be told which wombats have been treated and whether they have received a full course of treatment. There is currently no evidence that wombats treated are 12 months later mange free, that the parasites have been eradicated from the environment, that there has been fox control, and control of other manged wombats moving around the environment.
Wombats do move around from burrow to burrow, and the mites do survive in the wombat’s environment and re-infect resident wombats. It is our firm belief that we are not penetrating the management of the sarcoptic mite long term. There are many aspects to eradicating mange, not just treating a few wombats in isolated areas for a few weeks. This ultimately achieves very little and prolongs a horrific death for the wombats. It needs to be done properly, on the correct scale.
What You can Do
There are a number of things that you could do to help. We need to coordinate all efforts into one voice so that the Australian and State Governments have no option but take action. But apart from that, the most critical item is that wombat hospitals with quarantine facilities are built at the participating sanctuaries. We cannot treat these large numbers of wombats without quarantining them as they will infect the healthy wombats currently in care.
The Financial aspect: 1) Donate directly to the fundraiser for a mange hospital, go to Making A Difference Go Fund Raise or 2) if you are interested in becoming a Wombassador and being involved longer term, you could join the Sleepy Burrows Wombat Coffee Club for $10 (or more if you can) a month. For more information about the Sanctuary and the Coffee club, visit the pages on this website Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary. All donations to Sleepy Burrows are tax-deductible for Australian residents.
Coordinated Questions and Complaints: Target Australian political leaders with questions and complaints about the lack of action that has led to this situation of one of Australia's iconic, protected, native animals being left in such a condition of neglect and ongoing animal cruelty, to the extent that our wombats are being wiped out.
Below are some links that you can use to lodge a complaint:
Australian Federal Government and NSW State Government contacts:
For lodging questions and complaints about what is being done about wombats and the mange problem. Make sure you ask for a response in the email contact webform.
WEBSITE CONTACT FORM
NSW Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton
Federal Environment Minister, Josh Frydenberg
If you have seen/found a manged wombat:
Contact WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information and Rescue Education Service) on 1300 094 737 or the local group in your area.
Queanbeyan area (but not into the ACT) - Wildcare - 02 6299 1966
South Coast of NSW - Wildlife Rescue South Coast - 0418 427 214
Central West of NSW - Wildlife Carers Network - 0408 966 228 or
Southern Tablelands - Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary - 02 6236 8175 or 0419 448 117
ACT Wildlife - 0432 300 033
It is incredibly important that all manged wombat sightings are logged, what action has been taken and what has happened or not happened as a result of reporting. Sleepy Burrows is logging all sightings reported by members of the public. We encourage members of the public to report sightings to their local wildlife care group in the first instance, ask them what are they going to do. Follow up with them in a week, a month, six months and ask them what they have done. Keep us informed about your progress.
You can also log photos, location and date of manged wombats on a Facebook page dedicated to highlighting wombat mange, Wombat Mange Diaries.
A Final Word
As noted above, the NSW Department of Primary Industries uses the following criterion as one of the definitions of animal cruelty:
“Animals which are left untreated following an injury or illness”
Your choice. You can sit and do nothing like the government and watch this species die out.
Or, you can join us and fight for this species, the bare nosed wombat!