It’s winter Down Under and zookeepers at Queensland’s Rockhamptom Zoo are helping wombats shed a few pounds before summer by walking them with a harness and leash — just like you would with a dog.
The short-legged marsupials need to lose the weight because they can easily overheat during the warmer months.
The extra pounds can be especially burdensome to wombats like Donna, a 20-year-old southern hairy-nosed wombat that has a damaged hip.
Zookeepers suspect that 70-pound Donna sustained her injury after a close encounter with either a dingo or car, and they say dropping 4 to 7 pounds will help her take pressure off her injury.
“She’s quite a lazy wombat,” zookeeper Yvette Fenning told The Telegraph. “We’ve tried putting her food bowl at the other end of her den, but decided we needed to be more proactive.”
Donna is now one of six wombats that take daily strolls around the zoo.
Wombats have the lowest basal metabolic rate of all mammals, and they’re typically active for only a few hours a day.
"One study looked at wombats in the wild and they only moved 170 meters in a 24-hour period," Fenning said. "They don't move a lot in the wild, so we don't want to exhaust them in captivity."
Wombats like Donna typically take their walks in the morning, and once they’re strapped into the harness, the animals are free to wander.
"You just have to let them do what they want to do,” said Kaillee Schulz, an American student who is interning at the zoo. "Once they get going, they're super excited to wander around and see all the new terrain."
And what do the wombats think of their daily cardio?
"They are loving it,” according to Fenning.
If you're curious to know what a wombat on a leash looks like, check out more photos below.
Related on MNN:
- How to hike with your cat
- 7 things you didn't know about wombats
- If you were an orphaned animal, you'd want this woman to be your mom