The giant wombat is a cryptid reported from Australia, principally New South Wales, described as a sheep-sized animal resembling a wombat (family Vombatidae). Some cryptozoologists suggest that reports could involve surviving Diprotodon or a relative.
Modern sightings describe a large animal resembling a wombat, but around the size of a sheep (one sighting describes them as one metre or 3'2'' long and half a metre or 1'6'' high, within the known wombat size range), sometimes with longer legs, and often with forelimbs noticeably longer than the hindlimbs. They are described as having dark brown or black hair, no visible tails, and highly-mobile, wombat-like heads. One sighting involved a family group of four individuals, two adults and two juveniles.
According to an 1872 report, for some eight or nine days a giant wombat-like animal was seen at Giant's Cave, near Pound Creek in Braidwood, New South Wales. Some eyewitnesses described it as a "monstrous wombat" or a "native bear," though some called it a gorilla. It was supposedly regularly seen at evening, "sitting on one of the rocks in which this place abounds, and upon the approach of any individual makes a chattering noise and immediately disappears amongst the rooks or into a hole".
An eyewitness identified as John reported a giant wombat sighting to Gary Opit on 3 June 1997. John claimed to have seen the animal while driving the Bournda Road through bushland near Bondi Lake, south of Tathra (New South Wales), during the late afternoon. It walked out onto the road from a thicket of vegetation, forcing John to brake and making the animal turn, resulting in him pulling up with it beside his window, level with his elbow. He described it to Opit as resembling a giant wombat covered in dark hair, but slimmer and taller, with longer limbs, and a "more mobile head". Both were scared: John sped away and the animal fled into the bushes.
An eyewitness identified as Claire provided Opit with an alleged 2001 sighting of a giant wombat on 20 March 2013. Unlike the other sightings, this occurred in Victoria, near the town of Foster. While walking along Gardiners Road, through a patch of bush in a region of cleared farmland, a sheep-sized animal allegedly ran across the road "just in front of her," locomoting like a wombat. She described it as black to dark brown, with comparatively long forelimbs, no tail, and head like a wombat's, but more mobile. Claire was sure that the animal was not a wombat, despite resembling one, and described an illustration of Diprotodon as exactly resembling the animal.
Gabe Hart claimed to have encountered a family of bear-like or giant wombat-like animals on 20 December 2004, near New South Wales' Mount Jerusalem National Park, in a communication sent to Opit in 2005. Hart claimed to have seen the four animals, two adults and two juveniles, crosssing Wilsons Creek Road in his headlights at 11:00 PM. The adult animals were about one metre long and half a metre high, with comparatively long forelegs, dark hair, and no visible tail. They were travelling slowly in single file, and were moving their hind legs together, as a kangaroo does when walking quadrupedally.
Gary Opit described these cryptids as being similar to Diprotodon, a Late Pleistocene marsupial which, 6'6'' at the shoulder, was the largest known; larger than the animal described in modern sightings of giant wombats. Karl Shuker and Bernard Heuvelmans have both suggested that Diprotodon could have adapted to arid conditions and could still exist in the vast Australian interior, rarely seen even by the aboriginal inhabitants of the regions. Smaller, but still large, relatives of Diprotodon also existed in Late Pleistocene Australia, such as Nototherium and Zygomaturus, as well as a genuine giant wombat (Phascolonus). Diprotodonts have also been suggested as explanations for dog-faced bunyips, marsupial tapirs, and the gyedarra.
Notes and references
- "Citizen Science and Cryptozoology: Data Received From Listeners During 18 Years of Wildlife Talkback on ABC North Coast New South Wales Local Radio," Australian Zoologist Vol. 38, No. 3 (2017)
- Morgan, Thomas Gyedarra | Thomas Morgan superbugtom.com [Accessed 8 October 2020]
- "Another Mystery," The Sydney Morning Herald (16 September 1872)
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2016) Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors: The Creatures That Time Forgot?, Coachwhip Publications, ISBN 978-1616463908
- Heuvelmans, Bernard (1955) On the Track of Unknown Animals, Routledge, ISBN 978-1138977525