A wombat joey found alive in his dead mother’s pouch has been rescued after the suspected deliberate slaying of up to 10 wombats in southern NSW.
The orphaned joey, believed to be one to two months old, has been dubbed Lucky by the wildlife rescue volunteers who saved him.
He was discovered this weekend at a Kangaroo Valley campsite where up to 10 adult wombats were found dead. Police believe the wombats – including nursing mothers – were deliberately run down late on Friday night or early on Saturday.
Environment and police officials on Sunday afternoon said eight wombats had been found dead, although they were unable to confirm reports that another two of the creatures were found dead on Sunday morning.
Investigators have been told a white 4WD was spotted in the area and are calling on anyone with more information to come forward.
Wildlife Rescue South Coast president Richard Woodman told AAP that volunteers were searching the Bendeela camping ground on Sunday afternoon for any other joeys that might have survived the carnage. ”I’m shocked,” he said.
“I can’t believe that someone would go out of their way to go and kill a wombat for sport or for a thrill. ”When you go out to the site and can see where someone’s deliberately left the paved road and left tyre marks on soft ground, that’s pretty deliberate.”
He said he expected the wombats to be left in their original spots overnight as suckling joeys typically return to their dead mothers, but the slain animals would likely be removed on Monday.
It’s hoped the vehicle involved in the incident will be easy to pick.
“The way I’d put it is: you wouldn’t do it with your own car,” Mr Woodman said. “Wombats are just solid balls of muscle … it would be like hitting a rock.”
As for little Lucky, Mr Woodman said the joey was not showing any signs of injuries and it was hopeful he would one day be strong enough to return to the wild.
That won’t happen until he is about 16 months old, but in the meantime he will be paired with a wombat “buddy”.
“Wombats are solitary animals but they do live in a community … we can look after them but we can’t teach them how to be wombats,” Mr Woodman said.
Any campers who stumble upon any other joeys have been urged to contact wildlife rescuers.
A NSW Environment department spokesman said anyone found to have deliberately hurt or killed a wombat could be prosecuted under animal cruelty laws as well as under the National Parks and Wildlife Act.
Anyone convicted of harming protected fauna faces a maximum fine of $11,000 and up to six months in jail.