Millie and Arthur, a pair of orphaned Southern Hairy Nosed Wombats, have been welcomed into their new home in the Australasia Pavilion at Toronto Zoo.
Like the koala, kangaroo, platypus and Tasmanian devil, wombats are uniquely Australian animals.
Two of the stocky marsupials however are now burrowing their way into the hearts of Canadians. Millie and Arthur, 18 month old orphaned Southern Hairy Nosed Wombats, are settling into their new home in the Australasia Pavilion at Toronto Zoo. Millie and Arthur arrived in their new Canadian home after a short stopover for quarantine purposes in the United States at Brookfield Zoo, Chicago.
According to the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the process to send wombat ambassadors to Canada took five years to arrange. Millie and Arthur have been sent to Canada as part of a program facilitated by Zoos South Australia where rescued wombats are sent to North American zoos in an attempt to encourage breeding and increase the captive population of wombats in North America. The youngsters will join Hamlet, Toronto Zoo’s resident male wombat and become the first wombats to be imported for several decades. Toronto Zoo now has one third of the wombat population in North American zoos.
"We are delighted to welcome Millie and Arthur into the Zoo family and look forward to the possibility of infant hairy-nosed wombats to boost the North American captive population," said Dr. William Rapley, Zoo Executive Director of Conservation, Education and Wildlife in a press release.
According to Zoos South Australia, the facilitators of the wombat conservation program, there are approximately 100,000 Southern Hairy Nosed Wombats living wild in the southern and western states of Australia. Their habitat and survival is being threatened by increasing agriculture, competition for food from rabbits and sarcoptic mange. The powerful stocky animal can weigh up to 38 kilograms and run at speeds approaching 40 kilometres per hour. Southern Hairy Nosed Wombats are one of three wombat species and are the most social of all wombat species with up to ten wombats living in a burrow.
Quick Wombat Facts:
• Wombats are marsupials which means they give birth to young who are reared in pouches
• Wombats live in complex underground tunnel systems known as burrows
• Wombats are nocturnal creatures and are herbivores
• The scientific name of the wombat is Lasiorhinus latifrons
• Possibly the most famous wombat in Australia is Fatso who starred in the 1980s television program, A Country Practice
• The Fabulous Adventures of Mister Wombat website tells the tale of the world travel of a soft toy wombat (complete with pictures at all major tourist attractions)