mange is a nasty disease that predominantly affects the Bare-Nosed Wombat throughout
its range. Sadly, the condition has also recently been found in Southern Hairy-Nosed
Wombat populations in South Australia, however there is no record of the Northern
Hairy-Nosed Wombat being affected.
to popular belief, the spread of mange is not entirely due to wombats - the introduced
fox and feral dogs are also hosts for mange and contribute to mange dispersal.
It is considered that the fox may have initially brought the might that causes
the disease to Australia.
mite is called Sarcoptes scabiei which has many different sub-species that
affect a number of different hosts. Although Sarcoptes scabiei is transferable
between different hosts - including humans - it is usually host specific and therefore
is self limiting. The mite that affects wombats - often fatally - is called Sarcoptes
scabiei var wombati.
mites first mate on the skin of the wombat and the male dies not long after. The
female mites then burrow under the skin of the wombat leaving a network of tunnels
in the flesh where eggs are laid, the female then dies at the end of a tunnel.
The mite eggs are nurtured via the wombat's blood serum and hatch into larvae
three to eight days later.
then moult into nymphs - and nymphs into adults. During this cycle the mite feeds
off the wombat's blood serum which is the main contributor to the debilitation
of the wombat. Once the nymphs have turned into adults they make their way back
to the surface of the skin - creating more tunnels - where they mate and the cycle
starts again. The life cycle of the mite is approximately two to three weeks.
mange is a severe disease and affects the host in several ways. The irritation
caused by the mite burrowing under the skin causes the wombat to scratch incessantly
which in itself causes often irreparable damage to the skin including mutilation
and hair loss. From the constant scratching, skin layers are taken off and raw
flesh is exposed. The blood serum seeps through the mites' tunnels to the exposed
flesh creating wounds and scabs. Ulcers and deep lesions develop which then cause
secondary infection and blow fly strike.
visible symptoms of this disease are skin thickening and crusting over the body,
including they eye and ear areas causing blindness and deafness. The animal becomes
too weak to search for food and malnutrition and dehydration occur. The immune
system becomes depleted and the wombat looks emaciated.
advanced stages sarcoptic mange also has a devastating effect on internal organs,
including the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive organs. Respiratory
infections and pneumonia can deplete the wombat further.
without treatment, a wombat with sarcoptic mange will die and death is slow and
at Cedar Creek Wombat Rescue, have been caring for wombats for several years and
have a continual stream of mange affected wombats passing through our doors. We
seem to get mainly females without joeys, as wombats in this condition don't breed.
Sadly, if mange is contracted by a female with a joey she will often reject it
as she can't cope with the extra burden, so we tend to keep an eye out for abandoned
wombat joeys in our area.
colonies of the Bare-Nosed Wombat are being lost to this horrible disease; however
an affected wombat can completely recover if it is treated early. You can help
save these animals by reporting cases to your local wildlife organisation or to
your local National Parks and Wildlife Service office. Record the time and exact
location of the wombat so that it can be found easily by a ranger or wildlife
remember - the quicker you act the more chance a wombat has of survival!