A mystery liver disease thought to be caused by introduced weeds is causing hairy-nosed
wombats in southern Australia to go bald and die, researchers said on Tuesday.
The illness, which causes the wombat to lose some or all of its fur and then starve to death, is tearing through South Australia’s native southern hairy-nosed wombats, threatening entire populations.
Peter Clements from the state’s Natural History Society said wildlife rescue workers had discovered “several hundred” sickened animals in the Murraylands region near Adelaide, where up to 85 percent of the population was unwell.
“They tend to lose their fur in patches and sometimes in whole,” Clements told AFP.
“You can see the bones showing through and they’re generally immobile, they just sit there in the sun all day and try to keep warm.”
Clements said it was unusual to see the wombat, a nocturnal creature, out during the day and when they were in daylight “we know that they’re in trouble.”
Initially the animals were thought to have mange, but it became so widespread and severe – with shiny, healthy skin revealed beneath – that autopsies were carried out to determine what was causing the illness.