A TINY outback community in Queensland is building a giant statue of the critically endangered northern hairy-nosed wombat to reinvigorate the local economy and to build hope for the future.
The rural community of Thallon hopes the arrival of 2m high and 3.5m long William the Wombat will prove a drawcard for tourists and boost the economy.
The idea to create William came out of a community meeting in 2015 when locals brainstormed ideas to reinvigorate the town following years of drought, loss of services and population decline.
The town has a special connection to the northern hairy-nosed wombat with some of the earliest specimens found in the area.
The species is one of the world's most endangered mammals with just 250 remaining - 240 at Epping Forest National Park near Clermont in Queensland and 10 at Richard Underwood Nature Refuge just north of St George, Queensland.
While the wombats have long gone, moves are afoot to reintroduce wombats into their former range.
The Wombat Foundation is dedicated to conserving the northern hairy-nosed wombat and is sponsoring the project to build William the Wombat.
Other funding contributions have come from FRRR (the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal), Queensland Government - Gambling Community Benefit Fund, and The Balonne Shire Council.
A report recently released by The Wombat Foundation found there was an urgent need to find additional sites for the wombats as they were set to run out of room to grow at their current home in Epping Forest National Park by 2025.
Director Jacqui Mills said it was great to be part of William the Wombat's journey back to Thallon.
"It renews our resolve to find additional sites for the northern hairy-nosed wombats to give them room to grow,” she said.
Thallon Progress Association spokeswoman Leanne Brosnan said William had a dual purpose.
"This is about raising public awareness to bring northern hairy-nosed wombats back from the brink, but also about bringing Thallon back from the brink after suffering many years of drought so it's a shared aim,” she said.
Western Sydney University will also be supporting William's journey by lending the use of its WomSAT online tracking system.
Associate Professor Julie Old, from the School of Science and Health at Western Sydney University, said WomSAT was a research tool that allowed everyday citizens to get involved in conservation efforts by reporting wombat sightings.
"William will be fitted with a radio collar, so that anyone who is interested can login to WomSAT and track his progress to Thallon,” she said.
A spokesperson from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland, said it supported the giant wombat project as it would increase awareness of the endangered northern hairy-nosed wombat while providing a great tourism opportunity for the town of Thallon.
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