The cast and crew of Wildside Australia are devoted to the conservation of Australian native plants, animals and the natural places which they live within. Our mission is to not only help individuals and groups to realise and fulfill their conservation potental but to inspire and eduacate everyday people to be tomorrows conservation leaders. We acheive this through stunning imagery and cinematography and also through our own conservation initiatives.
A note from the director,Brendon Levot on the terrifying Wombat Mange epidemic:
The Common Wombat is an iconic Australian marsupial species. It can be easily identified by its adorable looks, a very furry coat, a little bare nose and a backwards facing pouch that is specifically designed so it doesn’t fill up with soil during their favourite night time activity apart from eating, digging. They are one of three species of wombat within the family Vombatidae, the other two being the Northern and Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat species. All species of Wombat are known to have hypselondont teeth, meaning that they are ever growing. This is a feature unseen in any other Australian marsupial mammals and is believed to be an adaption to allow Wombats to gain the most amount of energy out of a low nutrient diet of native grasses.
The name ‘Common Wombat’ is a misleading statement as numbers of Common Wombat have dramatically decreased throughout the known range since European settlement. Many are shot as they are considered a pastoral pest within New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia or reduced in numbers through habitat fragmentation, road mortality and disease.
The main disease that is threatening Wombat populations is Sarcoptic Mange. Wombat mange is a debilitating and lethal contagious skin condition which affects both Common and Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat species and is caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei var vombatus. Small sub-populations of Common Wombat are becoming extinct due to mange outbreak and it is feared that without intervention the Common Wombat may join the many other Australian native species on the red list.
Wombats infected by the mite show symptoms of hair loss, skin irritation and mutilation. Badly infected wombats may also suffer internal problems such as organ damage and failure. Vision and hearing can also become impaired as the mite causes the skin to crust on the body and in particular within these areas. Open wounds develop and leave the wombat susceptible to blow fly strike. The mite has a life cycle of 2 – 3 weeks. During this time the female mite will burrow within the wombats skin laying eggs. Eggs take 8 days to hatch. The mites are fed upon blood entering the mite tunnels from self-mutilation by the wombats caused by incessant scratching. If left untreated a wombat infected with Sarcoptic mange will succumb to a long and painful death.
However, Sarcoptic wombat mange is a treatable condition and wombats can be saved from certain death. Treatment options include the control of the mite within free living wombat populations and the removal of very sick animals into the hands of a professional wildlife carer. Treatment methods utilise the application of generic cattle pour on flea and tick treatments. This is administered much in the same way as frontline to your pet pooch via either direct or indirect application to the back of an infected animal’s neck. The indirect application of the treatment utilises a ‘burrow flap’ that is positioned over the entrance to a wombat burrow. As the wombat enters in and out of the burrow a small dose is applied. With monitoring the success of the treatment can be visualised after a four week dosage round as the infected wombats begin to frolic grow their fur once again. All treatments applied to control mange must be undertaken under the guidance of a licensed vet or local wildlife care centre.
It is easy to spot a wombat that has been infected with mange. Generally they will look scruffy, furless and scabby. Commonly if the wombat is out during the day it is safe to assume that the wombat has mange. Wombats are typically nocturnal animals that spend most of the day time underground within their burrows. If a wombat is spotted during the day time it is most likely that the wombat is either dehydrated or malnourished, both scenarios are cause and effect of wombat mange. Please don’t let mange go unnoticed as this is a treatable condition that is having disastrous impacts upon one of our favourite little native diggers.
My name is Brendon Levot. I am a conservation land manager, wildlife photographer, documentary filmmaker and co-founder of Wildside Australia and Out the back gate productions. My job as a conservation land manager is rehabilitate and enhance our natural areas, my job as a wildlife photographer and documentary filmmaker is to capture the true beauty and essence of Australian native plants and animals in their natural environments so I can spark the same passion I have in everyday people to conserve them.
Prior to first observing a wombat suffering with mange I had no experience or knowledge in dealing with such a problem. I just knew that something had to be done. The thought of the poor little wombat spending another day in that state of affair fuelled the conservation flare in my heart. Many months of research and quite a few visits to wombat hospitals around the country has now led me down the track to saving this iconic species. Together, some friends, a very supportive family and I have started to make a change within the grassy woodlands of western Sydney. In a landmark first I have been able to combine my knowledge of conservation land management with the control and treatment of wombat mange. After all what’s the use of bringing a sick animal back to life if it has no habitat to live and thrive within?
The little wombat which I first observed with mange is a small female named Lucy and recently after treating her in the wild for wombat mange I have noticed the tiny patter of pint sized wombat feet following in her footsteps imprinted within the soft soil outside of her burrow system. You don’t need a degree, a license or any experience dealing with wombats and mange to birth a success story such as mine, just a little patience and determination.