Australian police looking for driver who deliberately ran over 8 wombats, killing them

SYDNEY (AFP) - The Australian police were searching on Sunday for a driver who "deliberately" ran over and killed eight wombats at a camping ground south of Sydney.

The native animals, including four mothers, were found dead at the grounds in Kangaroo Valley, a scenic tourist spot about 150km south of Sydney.

"Police are appealing for witnesses after a number of wombats were deliberately run over and killed at a camping ground at Kangaroo Valley," New South Wales state police said in a statement late Saturday.

Police said the wombats were likely killed late on Friday or early on Saturday morning, with a spokesman telling AFP they were trying to confirm reports more carcasses had been found.

Squat and thickly furred, wombats are small burrow-dwelling marsupials that walk on all fours and are bear-like in appearance with a wide muzzle and a flattened head.

As marsupials, they carry their young in a pouch and officials said they were searching for orphaned joeys as four of the wombats were feeding mothers.

One joey that was found alive in one of the dead wombats' pouch was being cared for, Mr Richard Woodman from Wildlife Rescue South Coast told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Police Inspector Susan Charman-Horton said the car allegedly involved in the hit-and-run would have been damaged as the marsupials are "quite strong, quite round, quite hard, quite heavy", like bowling balls.

"We'll pursue the fact that there is a possibility that someone has been cruel to animals, should it be the case that these have intentionally been hit by a car," she told the ABC.

The Common Wombat is not a threatened species, while the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat and Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat are classified as endangered. It was not clear what species the dead wombats were.