The world’s oldest living and most probably fattest Australian Common Wombat has just celebrated his 29th birthday. Patrick the Wombat has lived at the Ballarat Wildlife Park in Victoria since 1986, and has won over a legion of fans in that time. He enjoys being carted around the Park in a wheelbarrow, giving visitors the chance to see one of these adorable marsupials up close and personal, as they can be quite elusive critters in the wild. After celebrating his milestone on 24 August, will Patrick take out the title of the oldest wombat ever in five years’ time?
The Common Wombat of Australia generally weighs in at between 22 to 39 kilograms (48.5 to 86 pounds), so at just under 40 kilos (88 pounds) Patrick is quite probably the fattest wombat in the world. He is also the oldest wombat in captivity by 13 years; however, the oldest wombat ever known to have lived made it to 34-years-old, so Patrick still has a chance to beat that record. In the wild, where wombats fall prey to predators, bushfires, and sadly often end up as roadkill, the marsupials’ life expectancy is only around 15 years. In captivity, 20 years is about the norm.
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In the wild, wombats are found in the southern and eastern regions of Australia. They are mainly nocturnal and sleep in complex burrow systems dug in hillsides above creeks and gullies. The burrows can be up to 20 meters (65.6 feet) long. Wombats average about one meter (40 inches) in length and can run up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) per hour and cover 100 meters (328 feet) in 10 seconds. If startled, they can bowl a person over trying to escape. Generally though, they are slow moving, ambling through the bush like happy little herbivores.
Patrick, like so many captive wombats, was found on the roadside as a baby in 1986 after his mother was killed by a car. The park’s managing director, Greg Parker, recalled, “He was a rascal then. Once he was in the car and climbed over to the driver’s side, putting the car in gear and drove it through the neighbor’s fence.” Oops! Park staff tried to release Patrick back into the wild on several occasions, but he was always attacked by other wombats and was brought back to the park for his own safety. And while wombats are known to be difficult to breed in captivity, park staff recently let slip that Patrick had never had a girlfriend, making him the world’s oldest known wombat virgin, too. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been feeling the love lately though. Since joining Facebook in July, Patrick’s page has racked up nearly 10,000 likes in less than six weeks. He would also like to remind you the 22 October is World Wombat Day.
Photos via Patrick the Wombaton Facebook