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Wildlife Resources
The Bare-nosed Wombat and Sarcoptic Mange
by Roz Holme


















Sarcoptic  mange is a nasty disease that predominantly affects the Bare-nosed Wombat throughout  its range. Sadly, the condition has also recently been found in Southern Hairy-nosed  Wombat populations in South Australia, however there is no record of the Northern  Hairy-nosed Wombat being affected.

Contrary  to popular belief, the spread of mange is not entirely due to wombats - the introduced  fox and feral dogs are also hosts for mange and contribute to mange dispersal.  It is considered that the fox may have initially brought the might that causes  the disease to Australia.

The  mite is called Sarcoptes scabiei which has many different sub-species that  affect a number of different hosts. Although Sarcoptes scabiei is transferable  between different hosts - including humans - it is usually host specific and therefore  is self limiting. The mite that affects wombats - often fatally - is called Sarcoptes  scabiei var wombati.

Sarcoptic  mites first mate on the skin of the wombat and the male dies not long after. The  female mites then burrow under the skin of the wombat leaving a network of tunnels  in the flesh where eggs are laid, the female then dies at the end of a tunnel.  The mite eggs are nurtured via the wombat's blood serum and hatch into larvae  three to eight days later.

Larvae  then moult into nymphs - and nymphs into adults. During this cycle the mite feeds  off the wombat's blood serum which is the main contributor to the debilitation  of the wombat. Once the nymphs have turned into adults they make their way back  to the surface of the skin - creating more tunnels - where they mate and the cycle  starts again. The life cycle of the mite is approximately two to three weeks.

Sarcoptic  mange is a severe disease and affects the host in several ways. The irritation  caused by the mite burrowing under the skin causes the wombat to scratch incessantly  which in itself causes often irreparable damage to the skin including mutilation  and hair loss. From the constant scratching, skin layers are taken off and raw  flesh is exposed. The blood serum seeps through the mites' tunnels to the exposed  flesh creating wounds and scabs. Ulcers and deep lesions develop which then cause  secondary infection and blow fly strike.

Other  visible symptoms of this disease are skin thickening and crusting over the body,  including they eye and ear areas causing blindness and deafness. The animal becomes  too weak to search for food and malnutrition and dehydration occur. The immune  system becomes depleted and the wombat looks emaciated.

In  advanced stages sarcoptic mange also has a devastating effect on internal organs,  including the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive organs. Respiratory  infections and pneumonia can deplete the wombat further.

Left  without treatment, a wombat with sarcoptic mange will die and death is slow and  painful.
We,  at Cedar Creek Wombat Rescue, have been caring for wombats for several years and  have a continual stream of mange affected wombats passing through our doors. We  seem to get mainly females without joeys, as wombats in this condition don't breed.  Sadly, if mange is contracted by a female with a joey she will often reject it  as she can't cope with the extra burden, so we tend to keep an eye out for abandoned  wombat joeys in our area.

Entire  colonies of the Bare-nosed Wombat are being lost to this horrible disease; however  an affected wombat can completely recover if it is treated early. You can help  save these animals by reporting cases to your local wildlife organisation or to  your local National Parks and Wildlife Service office. Record the time and exact  location of the wombat so that it can be found easily by a ranger or wildlife  carer.

And  remember - the quicker you act the more chance a wombat has of survival!
Fourth Crossing Wildlife
e: linda@fourthcrossingwildlife.com
a: c/o Wiangaree Post Office, 60 Worando Street, WIANGAREE NSW 2474
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