In New South Wales, local wombats are helping dozens of other species find water as the country sizzles under severe drought.
The cuddly-looking animals invaded Ted Finnie’s beef farm and began tunneling underground to a hidden water source, local news reports.
According to ABC Australia, the farm sits 19 miles (30 kilometers) down the Hunter Valley—which has only seen a pinch of rain over the past three years.
After such a long period, the wombats’ relentless tunneling had created a crater 20 meters (65.6 feet) in diameter and four meters (13 feet) deep.
“As the crater has dried out due to the drought the wombats have burrowed to get closer to the water and so they’ve gone underground a little bit,” said Finnie to local reporters, who also reported regularly seeing wallabies, wallaroos, and kangaroos.
After Hunter Region Landcare Network set up a camera trap at the “Wombat Soak” as he called it, Finnie found it was also attracting a myriad of other animals too, including birds, goannas, possums, echidnas, and emus.
Amazingly, there has never been a recorded instance of wombats digging for water, says biologist Julie Old, who began studying the site. Wombats dig their burrows in the side of creeks or small ditches under trees, where the roots will add to the stability of the burrow. The Wombat Soak has none of these properties.
“We often call wombats ecological engineers because they’re digging burrows and they make habitat for other animals,” Old told ABC Australia. Some animals have even been seen sharing burrows, albeit not very amicably, with the normally solitary wombat.
This was the case during the fire season when many wombat burrows were found to contain other species sheltering from the flames.
Thomas Hobbes, who famously described nature as red in tooth and claw, clearly never met a wombat, a species now being hailed as heroes for their life-saving assistance in these difficult conditions.