Rio Grande Zoo Houses the Only Tasmanian Wombats in North America
Australian wildlife expert Androo Kelly holds Otto at the ABQ BioPark Zoo. Albuquerque's zoo is currently the only home to Tasmanian wombats in North America.
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The ABQ BioPark Zoo is now home to the only Tasmanian wombats, Vombatus ursinus tasmaniensis, in North America. Mayor Richard J. Berry welcomed the new residents at a press conference today in the Zoo's Australia area.
"We're giving another reason for Albuquerque's visitors and residents to come and enjoy our zoo," Mayor Berry said. "The Rio Grande Zoo is a gem in the Southwest and we're fortunate that we have a wide cross-section of animals as well as wonderful staff to care for them."
Visit the Wombats
The wombat exhibits are located in the Australia area of the Zoo. As the wombats continue to get accustomed to their new homes, they will be on exhibit from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.
Two males and one female arrived on Dec. 3, 2010. Australian wildlife expert, Androo Kelly of Trowunna Wildlife Park accompanied the trio on their trip from Tasmania, via Brisbane, Australia and Los Angeles. During the last week, he has been training BioPark zookeepers about management and husbandry of the animals.
"We have worked hard for a number of years to acquire wombats," said Zoo Manager Lynn Tupa. "We are excited about successfully bringing this unique mammal to Albuquerque."
Otto, the younger male, was hand-reared by Kelly. Yamu, which means "rock" in the Tasmanian Aboriginal language, is the older male. The female is named Womona.
It took several years of working with Australian authorities to acquire wombats. The New Mexico BioPark Society provided funding for the entire acquisition, which totaled $60,000.
Affectionately known as the "bulldozer of the bush," wombats are one of the most beloved animals in Australia. With their waddling gait and furry look, they will likely become an Albuquerque favorite, too.
Wombats are marsupials and the world's largest burrowing mammals. Their burrows can stretch over 60 feet long. Wombats graze at night on grasses, shoots and roots. This subspecies lives in the grasslands and forests of Tasmania. Other subspecies of common wombats can be found along the southeastern coast of Australia and on Flinders Island.