Take two wombats and a little help from a rival

A LITTLE bit of competition can do wonders.

The first southern hairy-nosed wombat to be born at Taronga Zoo in 30 years has waddled her way into the world.

And housing a young male rival in the den alongside her father, Noojee, could have been one of the factors that originally spurred him into fruitful action.

Zoo-keeper Samantha Elton said the species, which had been thought to be extinct in NSW until recently, was notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, so a range of approaches was tried.

Noojee was left with the females for the whole year round, for the first time.

''And we had the young male as a bit of competition, so Noojee didn't become too complacent,'' she said.

Weather and diet may also have contributed to the successful mating.

But, in the end, finding that perfect partner also seems to have been a key to the happy union between Noojee and a silky-furred female called Korra.

''When it comes down to it, compatibility has to be the biggest factor,'' Ms Elton said.

Little is known about wombat development in the pouch, but the keepers were able to check on the joey from when she was hairless and just six centimetres long.

After seven months in the pouch, the little female, called Turra, or shadow, in the Aboriginal Kaurna language, recently emerged and now weighs more than three kilograms.

True to her name, she waddled cautiously behind her mother along the corridor from her dark den for a brief peek at the daylight when the Herald visited.

The manager of the zoo's conservation and research centre, Rebecca Spindler, said southern hairy-nosed wombats were close relatives of critically endangered northern hairy-nosed wombats, of which there are only 115 left in central Queensland.

''If we can perfect and apply what we learnt from our breeding program here to northern hairy-nosed wombats , the ramifications for this species could be immense,'' Dr Spindler said.

Numbers of wild southern hairy-nosed wombats are also in decline due to loss of habitat, road deaths and an infestation of mange disease.

The story Take two wombats and a little help from a rival first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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