Simon Walton’s love of his pet wombat, ‘Wallah’ has spawned a lifesaving project for the northern hairy-nosed wombat.

Story by Suzy Young and Photos by James McEwan

“I swear it was the worst day of my entire life,” Simon Walton says emphatically, of the day he had to face putting down his ailing pet wombat, ‘Wallah’. Simon was 18 at the time, and Wallah had been part of his life – sleeping in his bed and even showering with him – since he was six years old. Simon is a big, strong, country-bred fellow with an energetic, positive presence, and he isn’t easily dismayed. But the loss of Wallah inspired a lifelong affection for the big, bumbling, bear-like animals, and now Simon has found a way to honour the memory of his pet by helping another type of wombat.
As the coordinator of Rockhampton Zoo, Simon is working on a project to save the northern hairy-nosed wombat, of which only 90 still exist in the wild. This is compared to the common wombat, which numbers in the millions, and the southern hairy-nosed wombat, of which there are about 4000. While it’s not where Simon had expected his life to lead, it’s almost as if everything he has done before was in preparation for it.

This story excerpt is from Issue #47

Outback Magazine: June/July 2006