At 30, he is ancient...
He has lived far longer than any of his kind in recorded history...
Born at Brookfield Zoo in 1975, Carver Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat was one the first wombats born outside of Australia. According to published documents on wombats, Carver not only holds the longevity record for his species in a zoo, an older wombat has never been found in the wilds of the outback. The previous longevity record for all three species of wombat in a zoo was held by Carver’s mother Vicky, who lived to the ripe old age of 24 and a half. It is not easy being THE oldest, so Carver has needed some special care. In recent years, he has been treated for cataracts and arthritis and has lost a toe to skin cancer.
But despite his age and assorted health issues, Carver just keeps on ticking. Australia House staffers describe him as very mellow. It is possible that his easygoing demeanor with people is a result of being hand reared by keepers in the ‘70s. His robust diet of chow, carrots, sweet potatoes, and occasional cucumbers belie an age that would keep comparable humans on a liquid diet.
What’s a Wombat?
Since only four North American zoos exhibit wombats, this would be a fair question. Wombats are thick, heavy-bodied animals found in arid to semiarid savannah woodlands, grassland, and low shrub plains in central southern Australia. Wombats are about the size of a medium-size dog, making them the largest burrowing mammals in the world. Their bodies are rounded and compact for life in the tunnels. They have a stubby tail, a flattened head that looks too big for their body, and short, powerful legs. They use their long claws when digging warrens---complex, underground tunnel systems that are the center of wombat life. Each warren is made up of several separate burrows.
Like many animals from the land down under, wombats are marsupials, carrying young (which are only the size of a bumblebee at birth) in their pouch for up to eight months. Once weaned, a baby wombat, called a “joey,” rides on its mother’s back, learning to find food and dig. Even though wombats spend most of their time in tunnels, they still know how to move above ground. In fact, they are known to run at speeds up to 25 miles per hour! Unfortunately for the keepers who work with them, wombats do not corner well at those speeds and often barrel into unsuspecting staff monitoring their enclosure.
Brookfield Zoo has a long history with wombats. In 1975, it was the first zoo outside of Australia to breed southern hairy-nosed wombats---and Carver was one of the first born at Brookfield Zoo. There have been wombat residents in Australia House since its opening, and the zoo initiated some landmark conservation efforts in Australia to help protect them. In 1971, the zoo raised funds to purchase an abandoned sheep station that was home to southern hairy-nosed wombats. These animals were threatened by ranchers who saw the burrowing mammals as menace to their increasing use of the land for grazing animals. The zoo donated the land to the state of South Australia and continued to support restoration and research projects with staff working at the site. Today, the land is known as the Brookfield Conservation Park and is an official piece of the national park system in Australia. More important, the lessons learned at Brookfield Conservation Park have led to millions of acres of degraded pastoral land in Australia being turned into conservation areas.
Carver has been doing his part for wombat conservation, too. At Brookfield Zoo, he participates in an ongoing hormonal study that will help to inform ongoing conservation efforts on behalf of wombats in Australia---particularly the endangered northern hairy-nosed wombats.
Carver Makes His Prediction!
Since Carver's birthday fell on the same day as the biggest football game of the year, keepers put the old adage “with age comes wisdom” to the test. The wombat was given some very special "pregame treats." Carver received two nutritious sweet potato cakes prepared especially for him by the zoo’s chef. The cakes each featured the logo of one of the teams playing in Sunday's big game: the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. Keepers theorized that, with his amazing wombat wisdom, Carver would go directly to the cake for the winning team! After mulling the choice over for some time, he eventually made his choice. By munching on the Patriots cake first, Carver clearly weighed in for New England. Of course, the Patriots won the game, confirming what everyone already knew---Carver is one special wombat!
Carver is the oldest wombat in recorded history
Carver peaks out of his Australia House burrow
Carver Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat
Most of Brookfield Zoo's early wombat births were hand-reared by keepers---this photo is from 1974.
Hand-reared wombat in the early 1970's
Looking for a gift that people will really DIG?
Purchase a Share the Care package online and help the zoo care for Carver Wombat. Get a personalized certificate, animal photo, and more---just for showing you care.