2012 diary summary Richard Underwood Nature Refuge
Continued rains help nature thrive
The summer of 2011-2012 saw another good wet season at Richard Underwood Nature Refuge. In February, the Maranoa and Balonne Rivers flooded again, but Richard Underwood Nature Refuge remained unaffected.
An abundance of lush green grass saw the wombats in good health for the drier winter months ahead. Especially good to see were last year’s two joeys reaping the benefits of a good season and growing fast.
The wet season brought on an abundance of insect activity at Richard Underwood Nature Refuge. Notably, dragonflies were in large numbers and numerous species of dung beetle were busy devouring wombat dung. Many other species of birds, frogs, reptiles and mammals were also thriving following the good rains.
Joeys move toward independence
The two joeys born at Richard Underwood Nature Refuge in 2010 started their move toward independence from their mothers.
Joey one (J1) first emerged from its mothers burrow in early October 2011 and spent the next few months by its mother’s side. In February 2012, after five months out of the pouch, the joey was observed occupying a different burrow on its own.
Over the following months J1 was often seen out grazing alone. The joey was often seen visiting at other burrows and occasionally interacting with other adult wombats. While J1 appeared to be doing well, it never fully gained independence and disappeared from monitoring cameras in late 2012.
Joey two (J2) had quite a different experience. After leaving the pouch, J2 continued to share a burrow with its mother on and off for a period of nine months. Cameras regularly detected playful interactions between mother and joey outside burrow entrances. In July 2012, J2 moved to a nearby burrow where it began sharing with another adult female wombat. Maintaining its independence, J2 has continue to grow and been seen venturing out to other burrows.
Wombats revel in winter
After another good season of rain, the wombats continue to appear in excellent condition due to the greater amounts of green pick available. They were often observed returning to their burrows with a mouth full of grass after being out and about grazing.
With overnight temperatures as low as -3°C, the wombats took advantage of the warm daytime sunshine, often seen on camera basking and even grazing during daylight hours.
New burrow beginnings
The northern hairy-nosed wombats continued to explore the nature refuge and many new wombat diggings were discovered this year. These ‘test’ diggings have been observed at the base of large trees, against fallen logs and thick tufts of grass, and start out as shallow holes less than one meter deep.
The wombats periodically visit many of these diggings to rework them, and so the holes progressively become deeper and start to resemble burrows. The progress of these new burrows is monitored as part of the routine burrow activity monitoring.
The important role of maintenance
A number of important routine monitoring and maintenance tasks continue to take place as part of the day to day management of the nature refuge.
Regular monitoring and repair of the predator-proof fence is an important duty. Seasonal road works have been completed to keep the tracks accessible for staff and volunteers when needing to traverse the enclosure under all weather conditions. Volunteer caretakers regularly remove the pest cactus, tiger pear, as part of the ongoing habitat management at the nature refuge.
Trial plots have been established to exclude buffel grass, Cenchrus ciliaris (an introduced species) from substantial native grass areas within the nature refuge. It is important to maintain a diversity of native grass species for the wombats to graze on.
In early 2012 there was excitement over the discovery of a third pouch young for the second northern hairy-nosed wombat colony at Richard Underwood Nature Refuge. But the excitement was not to last, as several months shy of the joeys expected emergence date, the mother exited her burrow without a pouch young. Conservation officers waited expectantly for a joey to emerge from the burrow, but after several weeks the mother moved on from her burrow, indicating that there was no longer a joey.
There was also the unfortunate loss of two adult males in the latter half of the year. These wombats died of causes indirectly related to aggressive encounters with each other. While these deaths are significant to the small colony, they are a reality of nature and are providing conservation officers with new information that will assist with the future management of this species.
|Date released at RUNR||Wombat ID||Approx. age||Weight when trapped||Condition when trapped||Year death recorded|
|Born 2010||Joey2 (gender unknown)||Adult||Unknown||N/A|
|Born 2011||Joey3||Undeveloped pouch young||N/A||N/A||2012|