White wombats - not your average marsupials
February 7, 2012 - 4:41PM
Double ... but not trouble: Val Salmon with the two white wombats. Photo: The Salmon Family
They are white and very rare.
And for 40 years, wombat rescuer Val Salmon saw only one white southern hairy-nosed wombat - until last October.
"It's mind-boggling - just so unusual," said Ms Salmon, 54, who runs the Wombat and Fauna Rescue centre in Ceduna, on the west coast of South Australia.
The first young wombat was found by shearers wandering through a farmer's paddock near Ceduna in October.
Weak and close to death, the male marsupial, which has since been named Polar for its white fur, weighed only 2.9 kilograms.
Then five to six weeks later, in early December, the second white wombat, now called Icy, was found along the side of a road by members of the local Aboriginal community and taken to Ms Salmon.
Icy was in a better state than Polar, and weighed 5.5 kilograms. But she was still weak.
"She had blisters on her ears from the exposure and she was full of fleas and ticks," Ms Salmon said.
"They said her mum had been hit by a car."
Ms Salmon, who has been rescuing wombats since she was 14, said Icy was white with a ginger tinge and about 14 to 18 months old. Polar was about the same age but from a different family, she added.
The two wombats have since been nursed back to health, with Polar now weighing 10.75 kilograms, and Icy 10.45 kilograms.
Polar is "absolutely a dream" and "if he sees a set of legs walking by him, he'll follow them", Ms Salmon said, adding that both of the wombats were "very quiet".
The southern hairy-nosed wombat is about the same size as the common wombat. It has soft, grey and silky fur, with longer ears and a broader nose than the common wombat.
They eat native grasses and can weigh up to 32 kilograms, with a body length of up to 120 centimetres.
They are usually found in southern South Australia and south-east Western Australia.
Under South Australian law, such rescued wombats cannot be returned to the wild and are usually adopted by zoos or other educational parks after they recover, she said.
But some of the rescued animals at Ms Salmon's centre are so badly traumatised no one wants to adopt them.
"Zoos and parks don't want an animal unless they are perfect. For one of our other wombats, we have to grate all its food ... as it can't chew."
The centre - which is split between Ms Salmon's half-acre backyard and a 200-acre fauna park - is home to eight wombats, eight joey kangaroos, birds, possums, emus, pet lambs and sheep and many lizards.
Ms Salmon manages the centre "off my own bat" and runs a free daily educational talk for tourists that is funded by donations.
But she is hoping to get more contributions so she can build up the fauna park and provide a permanent home for all the rescued native animals.
To donate, write to P.O. Box 760, Ceduna SA 5690 or email donval110 at bigpond.com
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I love wombats!