On a beef farm owned by Ted Finnie, a strange scene is taking place. Wombats are supplying an array of drought stricken animals with the water they need to survive.
The drama is unfolding in New South Wales on the parched lands of the Hunter Valley Farm, which has been hit hard by a drought for the past 3 years.
The wombats, which are being called ‘water diviners’ for their unusual behavior, are helping the animals that live on and near the farm survive by providing them with water to drink also called a “soak.”. They have been digging the soak, a deep crater, below the surface of the earth, where they have uncovered a water source.
According to Western Sydney University biologist, Julie Old, the wombat’s behavior is very unique and she is unaware of any other instances of wombats digging for water, like what is happening on the Hunter Valley Farm.
"It's almost like the wombats are water diviners, they're finding the water and digging the holes to get to the water and the other animals are taking advantage of it," Dr Old said.
Ted Finnie, who is also a retired zoo veterinarian, set up a camera to study which animals are drinking there and currently he’s seen wombats, kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, birds, goannas, possums, echidnas, and emus. That water is also helping native fauna survive the drought.
Finnie said that the hole has been there for long time, but has recently grown larger as wombats dig deeper during the drought and is best described as being a “crater," he said.
"Being about 20 metres in diameter, with the rim of the crater going down maybe four metres into the ground. And as the crater has dried out due to the drought the wombats have burrowed to get closer to the water and so they've gone underground a little bit."
It is unknown if the wombats deliberately sourced and dug up the water or if it was a “happy accident” but certainly the watering hole they created is saving lives during the drought. The wombats are also busy keeping the hole open and accessible so that all the animals can drink there.
Finnie is calling the wombats the heroes. "They're the ones keeping the hole open and accessible," he said.
"I think it's really quite surprising how intelligent wombats are in the matter of survival; they are great survivors.”
"Especially given the fact that they are able to source this water supply fairly deep down."
Dr. Old is less likely to believe the wombats stumbled upon the water by accident. She thinks that the hole could have been dug intentionally and that it is unlikely to have begun as a burrow that accidentally struck water.
"They tend to build burrows on the sides of creeks and near tree roots to help hold the burrow together," she said.
"So where this spot is, not near a creek, would have been very unusual for the wombat to dig a burrow. "We don't know why it started, but it's become quite deep."
One thing is for certain, the wombats are adorable and many animals have their instincts and engineering skills to thank for their survival.
Please share their amazing story with your family and friends.