Wombat’s strange act on Aussie coast baffles tourists

The nocturnal marsupial, rarely seen in daylight, was spotted foraging along the coastline in unusual scenes captured by a pair of travellers.

A wombat walking along the beach in the shallows in Tasmania.
A wombat has been spotted eating and seemingly drinking from the ocean. Source: Wombat Protection Society of Australia

A pair of tourists exploring the Aussie coastline got more than they bargained for when they not only spotted their first-ever wombat — but also witnessed it acting strangely.

US travellers Chaz and Bee Taylor were hiking near Bluff Hill Point on Tasmania’s northwest coast when they stumbled upon the lone wombat appearing to forage in the shallows of the water.

Surprised by the behaviour of the nocturnal marsupial, they captured footage of the moment in February last year and sent it to wombat experts who were just as baffled by what they witnessed.

"[The couple] reported it seemed to be eating some type of seaweed or aquatic plants and wading in the shallows apparently drinking seawater. This was the first wombat they had seen and thought this to be unusual," Wombat Protection Society of Australia shared online last week.

The wombat foraging on the beach in Tasmania at the water's edge.
It's thought the wombat may be eating something in the water that is missing from its diet. Source: ABC

The society admitted there is a "great deal of mystery" regarding wombats and their lifestyles, but while they had spotted evidence of wombat footprints along beaches before, little is known about what they do.

"Do wombats eat aquatic plants? We know some of these plants are loaded with vitamins and minerals," the society added.

"Maybe the wombat is finding some extra nutrients in the sea grasses/plants that may be lacking from its diet. It is also known there are quite a number of places where fresh water is entering the sea and maybe the wombat is drinking this water.

"It certainly poses quite a few questions and is something we are looking into."

WPSA Victorian director Jennifer Mattingley told the ABC it was the first time she'd ever seen a wombat behave that way, though admitted there had been reports before.

"We were really grateful that they've sent [the video] in because to us it's unusual behaviour," Mattingley said.

Across the country, Aussie wildlife are rapidly losing their habitat as humans move into their area. Last year, Yahoo reported a four-month-old bare-nosed wombat in Victoria was rescued after its mother was killed after being struck by a vehicle.

“Maude was brought in from Whittlesea, but she won’t be going back home because there’s a housing estate there now,” photojournalist Doug Gimesy, who documented the wombat's plight, told Yahoo at the time. "It’s just heartbreaking in so many ways."

The problem is being repeated across Australia, even endangered species like koalas are losing their homes across the Gold Coast and Sydney. But the once abundant bare-nosed wombat is also disappearing from the landscape.

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