Box Jelly fish
Keg of muscle
Most backpackers don't consider their Australian holiday to be complete unless they've seen a Kangaroo and a Koala. But there is one Australian creature that is just as peculiar as its celebrated compatriots, yet is often forgotten from the list of "must see" Australians animals. The humble Wombat is one of the strongest burrowing animals in the world. They can out dig a man with a shovel; they can dig in the hardest of soil, and about the only things that stop them are solid rock or loose sand.
An odd-looking animal, they resemble the offspring one might expect if a rat mated with a teddy bear. Their legs are short and stumpy while their body is round like a beer keg. Despite this stumpy frame, a Wombat in full flight can hit speeds of 36km/h. This is faster than an Olympic sprinter.
Wombats have large brains and this is reflected in their playfulness, which is seen as a measure of intelligence. Out of all Australian marsupials, Wombats are the most playful, and use their free time to head butt one another, running away to solicit a chase and indulging in shoulder rolls and somersaults.
Sadly, many people naively judge Wombats as stupid on the basis of their habit of charging straight through obstacles, rather than casually walking around them. But such superficial judgements once again show how first impressions can be deceiving. By going through obstacles, Wombats are clearing running tracks from their burrows to ensure they have straight line escape routes if surprised by a predator.
Once in their burrow, any dog or fox insane enough to follow them risks being confronted with a rounded bum, covered with very tough skin, which is difficult to bite. If the assailant attempts to crawl over the bum, the Wombat will suddenly push up with its powerful legs, crushing the attacker into the ceiling of the burrow. This can break the attacker's nose, paw or jaw. If the assailant lingers in the burrow for too long, the Wombat may decide to back up and use its bum to crush the invader into the burrow wall.
Aside from using it for protection, the Wombat also makes good use of its bum to produce its most famous novelty, square poos. These poos are then deposited the stones, logs and mushrooms that Wombats use to mark the boundary of their territory. Because each poo is flat on six sides, the Wombat is able to manoeuvre his bum into some hard to get at places, make a deposit and be confident his hard work isn't going to be undone by the poo rolling away.
Bushmen of the last century were amongst the first humans to appreciate the benefits of a square poo. Sometimes they wrote numbers on six sides and used them as dice in bush gambling games.
Although their production of dice once made Wombats man's best friend, nowadays they pose a danger to humans when they wander on roads and are hit by passing motorists. A huge barrel of muscle with a low centre of gravity, Wombats may act as a launching ramp that sends the car skywards and off the road.
Sometimes the wounded Wombat survives. If picked up and taken to an animal refuge organisation, motorists should try to cover their eyes as when frightened, they will try to push their head into a hole, such as the space under a car seat. With such powerful muscles, they can do a great job getting their head wedged and the whole seat may need to be unbolted.
Below are examples of the image of the Wombat being used in popular culture. For each example, try to speculate what the designers/selectors were hoping to achieve by using the image of the Wombat.
Below are methods that could allow some people to make money out of the Wombat. How do you think working in each industry would affect attitudes to the Wombat?
Activity 3 – Create a cartoon wombat
Fatso the Fat Arsed Wombat showed that native animals can be more interesting when they have a bit of character about them