Pouch young removal and return to oestrus in wild southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons)

Graeme Finlayson, David Taggart, Glenn Shimmin, Craig White, Ron Dibben, V Steele, M Paris, Peter Temple-Smith

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The southern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) is a seasonal breeding, burrowing marsupial adapted to a semi-arid environment and the closest relative of the endangered northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii). Females typically give birth to one to two young every 3 years with young weaned at 360-400 days. This study examined the occurrence of polyoestry in a wild population of southern hairy-nosed wombats, and in particular the ability of this species to produce additional offspring in the same breeding season if a young was prematurely lost or removed. Pouch young were removed during the breeding seasons of 1996/1997 and 2003. No females from the 1996 (n = 3)/1997 (n = 3) group gave birth to a second pouch young in the same breeding season. However, two females in this group gave birth to young the following season. In contrast, all the 2003 group of females (n = 6) produced a second offspring in the same breeding season after removal of pouch young (RPY). The reason for the different response to RPY between the two groups is unknown. These studies confirm that southern hairy-nosed wombats are polyoestrus in the wild and are capable of producing more than one offspring in a single breeding season. Females that failed to return to oestrus in the breeding season that pouch young were removed bred again in the following season. Rapid replacement of southern hairy-nosed wombat pouch young in the same breeding season as RPY suggests that this procedure, linked to either hand-rearing or interspecific cross-fostering, should be seriously considered as a priority conservation action to increase the population size of the critically endangered sister species, the northern hairy-nosed wombat.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216 - 222
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Reproduction Science
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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