16 December 2017

Australia’s oldest wombat celebrates turning 31 today

| Glynis Quinlan
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Winnie the wombat celebrates her 31st birthday today. Photo: Glynis Quinlan.

Australia’s oldest wombat – and possibly the world’s oldest – celebrates her 31st birthday at Canberra’s National Zoo & Aquarium today.

Winnie the wombat also celebrates the 25th anniversary of her arrival at the zoo today and will be marking both occasions by digging into a fruit and vegetable cake featuring some of her favourite treats such as carrots and lettuce.

The zoo’s team leader of Australian natives, Dr Danielle Johinke, says that wombats generally only live up to the age of 25 in captivity and Winnie has gone well past that.

While the secret of Winnie’s longevity was difficult to determine, Danielle thought it might have something to do with eating sweet potato – another of Winnie’s favourite treats.

Wombats aren’t always known for their friendly affectionate nature but apparently, Winnie is well-behaved except if she is “hangry”.

“Ninety per cent of the time she’s lovely. Occasionally if you come in and she’s on the hungry side she does want to charge you until you give her her food,” Danielle said.

Apparently, Winnie also likes to snuggle up into her own special doona and is none too pleased when unwrapped. Despite her advanced years, she sounds a bit like a teenager not wanting to get up in the morning!

Winnie loves a good back scratch and so the zoo’s team leader of Australian natives, Dr Danielle Johinke, helps out. Photo: Glynis Quinlan.

Winnie is one of the zoo’s most popular animals and is also part of the regular Jamala Wildlife Lodge tour.

“She’s been here for 25 years and so is well-known and well-loved at the zoo,” said Danielle.

Winnie loves a good back scratch and enjoys playing with enrichment toys such as plastic garbage bins. She will happily spend the day playing and knocking them around the enclosure.

Each day Winnie will eat an entire sweet potato, one or two corn cobs, lucerne chaff and grated carrot. She also enjoys natural grass.

Winnie enjoying some carrot cake for her birthday – minus the cake. Photo: Glynis Quinlan.

Winnie is a Common Wombat and her closest relative is the koala. Wombats look like plodders but they can run at speeds of up to 40 kilometres an hour. They can also lower their metabolism to two-thirds of its normal rate when resting in order to conserve energy.

Wombats are nocturnal animals but tend to emerge from their burrows in the late afternoon to forage for food. Winnie has a separate burrow for sleeping in to the one she likes to eat in.

All up life isn’t too bad for the old woman at the zoo!

Have you encountered Winnie at the zoo? If so let us know what you think of her – is she one of your zoo favourites?

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