Purpose of research and List of Publications

What is the nature and purpose of the research, its likely value to Australia and the date from which it was first undertaken, with details including:

Since 2003, The University of Queensland (A/Prof Stephen Johnston, Prof Clive Phillips, Dr Lindsay Hogan and Dr Kris Descovich) and Ms Janssen of the Australian Animal Care and Education (AACE) have been involved in collaborative research to develop captive breeding techniques for the propagation and genetic management of the Southern hairy-nosed (SHN) wombat, with the primary aim of using these techniques to help provide a SAFEHAVEN for the critically endangered Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat. Recently we have expanded our research activities to deliver improvements in natural breeding techniques, captive husbandry and to better understand the basic biology of the wombat, all of which will allow for the reliable production of wombat offspring.

Our vision is the establishment of a dedicated “Wombat Breeding Centre” composed of a captive breeding facility at Mt Larcom to investigate wombat biology “up close”, and an in situ wombat field station based in Ceduna (South Australia) to explore how wombats live and breed in the wild. The Wombat Breeding Centre will also be the hub for other field studies spanning across the current distribution of all three wombat species, and ultimately link into the in situ NHN wombat conservation program in central Queensland.

For the past 12 years, the University of Queensland, Western Plains Zoo, Rockhampton Zoo, DERM (Dr Alan Horsup), AACE and the Wombat Foundation have been conducting collaborative research into techniques that have lead to improvements in SHN and common wombat captive husbandry, behaviour and reproduction. To date, this work has resulted in the production of 8 SHNW wombat offspring, 3 Common Wombat offspring, 18 peer-reviewed journal publications, 3 PHD, 4 MAnSc and 1 honours theses. We also have 1 current PhD student and 1 MPhil student working at the AACE facility on wombat reproductive biology, physiology and behaviour. Our current PhD student is about to publish the world’s first study reporting measurement of progesterone, oestrogen and luteinizing hormone in wombat urine – in fact, this is a first for any marsupial.

With this level of academic activity and breeding success, we would regard ourselves as being the premier scientific authority on wombat captive reproduction in Australia and, therefore, the world. We have attached our review paper (Hogan, Janssen and Johnston 2013) on wombat reproductive biology from the highly respected journal REPRODUCTION which was authored by our group. Our group also has good working relationships with many of the researchers listed in this review.

In early 2012, AACE made a decision to move from their facility at Marlborough (100km north of Rockhampton) to Mt Larcom (30 km west of Gladstone) to allow us to establish a purpose built wombat breeding centre. The SAFEHAVEN Wombat Breeding Centre provides a critical mass of wombats (currently n = 20 but with a capacity to expand up to 40 wombats) that is available for investigating all aspects of wombat biology (health, physiology and behaviour), and is open to both national and international researchers.

It is our intention that through our strong commitment to wombat research (both ex situ and in situ conservation), animal welfare and husbandry, that the SAFEHAVEN Wombat Breeding Centre at Mt Larcom will one day become the preferred facility for the future captive breeding of the Northern hairy-nosed wombat; in fact, we have obtained permission in July 2015 form the state government (EHP) and UQ animal ethics committee to establish the 1st captive husbandry facility of the Northern hairy-nosed wombat at SAFEHAVEN.

While it has always been our intention to use the SHN wombat as model species for the NHN wombat, recent alarming evidence from South Australia is indicating that it may also be necessary to use our captive breeding strategies to breed SHN wombats for release back into South Australia. Consequently, we are currently looking to purchase a property near Fowlers Bay (SA) in the heart of wombat country to set up a field research facility that will give us access to animals within natural habitat and the chance to investigate the causes of the current decline in wombat numbers.

We have actively been working in SA for the last 4 years and have already established an excellent working partnership with South Australian State Government to help facilitate their research priorities. We are also working closely with neighbouring landowners to enable us to look at the possibility of relocating wombats that are destined for culling; our plan is develop effective translocation strategies for these animals. We are looking to set up a program to raise local abandoned orphans and monitor them post-release, as the current SA policy is to euthanase these animals or transfer them to zoos.

A/ProfJohnston UQ Research Website – http://researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/221
Prof C Phillips UQ Research Website – http://researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/1292
Tina Janssen SafeHaven-AACE Website – http://www.safehaven-aace.org.au

As indicated above, AACE conducts research under the direction and supervision of the University of Queensland, principally through A/Prof Stephen Johnston who is also the scientific advisor of SAFEHAVEN and principal advisor of post-graduate students working at the wombat facility. A/Prof Johnston also coordinates all animal welfare applications required to conduct scientific research at SAFEHAVEN.

All our research outputs are in the form of peer-reviewed publications. Those specific to wombats and published with AACE include the following:


(1) MacCallum C & Johnston SD (2005) Studies on the cryopreservation of common wombat (Vombatus ursinus) spermatozoa. Reproduction Fertility and Development 17:727-732.

(2) Johnston, SD, MacCallum C, Blyde D, McClean R, Lisle A & Holt WV (2006). An investigation into the similarities and differences governing the cryopreservation success of koala (Phascolarctos cinereus: Goldfuss) and wombat (Vombatus ursinus: Shaw) spermatozoa. Cryobiology 53: 218-228.

(3) Hogan LA & Tribe A (2007). The prevalence and cause of stereotypic behaviour in common wombats (Vombatus ursinus) residing in Australia Zoos. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 105:180-191.

(4) Hogan LA, Phillips, CJC, Lisle A, Horsup AB, Janssen T & Johnston SD (2009). Remote monitoring of the behaviour and activity of captive southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons). Australian Mammalogy, 31: 123-135.

(5) Hogan LA, Phillips CJC, Horsup AB, Keeley T, Nicolson V, Lisle A, Janssen T & Johnston SD (2010). Monitoring male southern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) reproductive function and seasonality in a captive population. Animal Reproduction Science, 118: 377-387.

(6) Hogan LA, Phillips CJC, Keeley T, Lisle AT, Horsup AB, Janssen T & Johnston SD (2010). Non-invasive methods of oestrus detection in captive southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons). Animal Reproduction Science, 119: 293-304.

(7) Hogan LA, Johnston SD, Lisle AT, Horsup AB, Janssen T & Phillips CJC (2010). Stereotypies and environmental enrichment in captive southern hairy-nosed wombats, Lasiorhinus latifrons. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 126: 85-95.

(8) Hogan LA, Phillips CJC, Lisle AT, Horsup AB, Janssen T & Johnston SD (2010). Reproductive behaviour of the southern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons). Australian Journal of Zoology, 58: 350-361.

(9) Enciso M, Johnston SD and Gosalvez J (2011). Differential resistance of mammalian sperm chromatin to oxidative stress as assessed by a two-tailed comet assay. Reproduction Fertility and Development, 23: 633–637.

(10) Hogan LA, Johnston SD, Lisle TA, Horsup AB, Janssen T & Phillips CJC (2011). The effect of environmental variables on the activity patterns of the southern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) in captivity: onset, duration and cessation of activity. Australian Journal of Zoology, 59: 35-41.

(11) Hogan LA, Johnston SD, Lisle TA, Keeley T, Wong P, Nicolson V, Horsup AB, Janssen T & Phillips CJC (2011). Behavioural and physiological responses of captive wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons) to regular handling by humans. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 134: 217-28.

(12) Hogan LA, Phillips CJC, Horsup AB, Janssen T & Johnston SD (2011). Technique for faecal marking in group-housed southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons) (Marsupialia: Vombatidae). Australian Zoologist, 35: 649-654

(13) Descovich KA, Lisle AT, Johnston S & Phillips CJC (2012). Differential responses of captive southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons) to the presence of faeces from different species and male and female conspecifics. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 138:110-7.

(14) Descovich KA, Lisle AT, Johnston S, Keeley T, Phillips CJC (2012). Intrasample variation and the effect of storage delay on faecal metabolite concentrations in the southern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons). Australian Mammalogy, 34: 217-222.

(15) Descovich KA, Lisle AT, Johnston SD, Phillips CJC (2012) Space allowance and the behaviour of captive southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 140: 92-98.

(16) Hogan LA, Janssen T & Johnston SD (2013) Wombat reproduction (Marsupialia; Vombatidae): an update and future directions for the development of artificial breeding technology. Reproduction. 145: 157-173.

(17) Oishi M, Takahashi M, Soeta S, Amasaki H, Janssen T, Johnston SD (2013) The seminiferous epithelial cycle and microanatomy of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) and southern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) testis. Journal of Anatomy 222:380-389.

(18) Swinbourne AM, Janssen T., Phillips CJC, Johnston SD (2014). Non-invasive urine collection in the female southern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) with the aid of classical conditioning. Zoo Biology 34: 89-93.


(1) MacCallum C (2005) The reproductive biology of the common wombat, Vomatus ursinus: Studies towards the development of an artificial insemination protocol. MPhil Thesis. School of Animal Studies, The University of Queensland.

(2) Hogan LA (2010) Reproductive biology and behavioural ecology of wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons) in captivity PhD Thesis, School of Agriculture and Food Science, The University of Queensland.

(3) Descovich KA (2012) The behavioural biology and management of southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons) in captivity. PhD Thesis. School of Agriculture and Food Science, The University of Queensland.

(4) McGowan AM (2012) Genetics and behavioural ecology of the Girraween National Park common wombat population. Honours Thesis, School of Agriculture and Food Science, The University of Queensland.

(5) Swinborune A (Current) Southern hairy-nosed wombat reproductive physiology and breeding for the development of assisted reproductive techniques and captive management. PhD Thesis. School of Agriculture and Food Science, The University of Queensland.

(6) Du Z (Current). Assessment of male reproductive function through the measurement of urinary hormones. MPhil Thesis PhD Thesis.

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