Wealthy American bequeaths millions to wombats
American bequeaths millions to wombats in Sydney, Australia
They are hairy, fat, and renowned for being grumpy but a wealthy American man was so taken by a group of sick wombats when he visited a sanctuary in Australia two years ago that he left them millions of dollars in his will.
While eccentric millionaires often against the advice of private banking and wealth management professionals, leave their money to cat homes or their spoilt pet dogs, (what about the badgers?) the unnamed American bequeathed AU$8 million (£4.8 million) to the Wombat Awareness Organisation (WAO) in South Australia, leaving the non-profit environmental group stunned at the act of generosity from the other side of the world.
“We thought it was a joke,” Brigitte Stevens, the organisation’s founding director, told The Badger. “So we asked for it to be sent in writing, and now that we have it confirmed we are still shocked.”
Ms Stevens met the millionaire, who worked in the http://www.coutts.com/private-banking/wealth-institute/family-business/
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horse racing industry, two years ago when he asked for a tour of the WAO, which conducts large-scale rescue and rehabilitation of the southern hairy-nosed wombat.Ms Stevens said she had explained to the American the work the group did in caring for injured wombats – which are native to South Australia and feature as the state’s emblem – and the conservation of the mammals, which are threatened by mange, drought, and landowners filling in their burrows.
“He was quite horrified at what was happening,” Ms Stevens said. “We didn’t know he had any money at all until his solicitor rang and said he had been all over Australia and spoken with a lot of different conservation projects and thought ours was the most genuine.“It’s really good news for the wombats. Finally we can take care of them a lot better and cater for a lot more wombats now.”
Southern hairy-nosed wombats are officially listed as threatened and are becoming endangered from sarcoptic mange, which killed 80 per cent of the population in 2004.The nocturnal animals live in burrows in arid environments and are usually silver or brown and can weigh up to 40kg.
While cute to look at, wombats can become agitated when sick. Last year an Australian man was mauled by a wombat which was suffering from advanced case of mange.Ms Stevens said the organisation – which is supported by Bob Irwin, father of the late environmentalist Steve Irwin – currently has 17 living at the wildlife refuge in Mannum. Approximately 700 are cared for annually.
They can spend anywhere from three days to a lifetime in rehabilitation at a cost of up to AU$40,000 per wombat.The animals are looked after by Ms Stevens – who describes wombats as “the loves of my life” – and two other volunteers, who all live together in a small property.
“I don’t have a bedroom, I don’t have a mirror and I don’t have hot running water,” she said. “We are the only people in the world who share a house with a community of wombats.”Ms Stevens said the group would use the donation, which will be delivered in instalments over eight years, to buy a larger property and develop a proper centre to care for the wombats, as well as other species of wildlife.
Despite the enormous gift, Ms Stevens said the group still needed more money to help the animals. She said that after the donation was made public today other donors had begun withdrawing their regular cash pledges, leaving the organisation short.“There is still so much work that needs to be done,” Ms Stevens said.