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The Endangered Bilby - The Real One, Not the Chocolate

BY DIONNE LISTER

Easter is upon us and one of the chocolate treats we love in Australia is the bilby ‘egg’. This egg was developed to create awareness of their endangerment (the bilby not the chocolate, although chocolate is classified as endangered at my house). In light of this we thought we’d highlight the plight of this Aussie marsupial too.

The bilby is also known as the rabbit-eared bandicoot and is on the endangered list. It’s cute and a bit freaky-looking at the same time. Its super-pointy face is topped with two large, rabbit-style ears. Its back legs are skinny and the tail is marginally wider than a rat’s. In the world of marsupials it is pretty special – the pouch faces backwards – handy for when the kids want to sneak out at night and go clubbing.

They are small, having a body length of up to 55 cm. Males weigh up to 2.5 kg with females about half that – no obesity problems here. They make frequent trips to the optometrist because they don’t see too well. Nature has compensated by giving the bilby a fantastic sense of smell and hearing – they don’t have whopping ears for nothing.

Bilbies love to dig, and live in burrows, coming out at night to search for food. They are omnivorous and eat bulbs, seeds, insects and spiders – I think I’d like one to hang out with one because I experience way too many spider incidents. Biblies don’t drink water, they get all they need from those juicy spiders.

Ok, I was jealous when I found this out – bilbies have a gestation period of 12-14 days and the young only hang out in the pouch for 75–80 days – way to go bilbies! Oh, and did I mention their fur is super duper soft? Aw, I just want to cuddle one now.

They are endangered because of introduced predators, which include foxes, cats and dogs and destruction of their natural habitat by pesky rabbits. Captive breeding programs have been set up, as have fencing of large tracts of their habitat. After fencing has been done, the predators are removed and bilbies introduced. Because of these programs, bilby numbers are increasing with around 1500 now living in South Australia where they had become extinct.

There is a fun way to help and that is by buying Darell Lea or Haigh’s chocolate bilbies this easter instead of the normal egg or bunny. I know it’s ironic, but by eating a bilby instead of a rabbit, you’ll be saving the bilby, as proceeds from the sale of every chocolate bilby go to supporting these programs. Donations can be made to assist in the fencing off of more habitat, which is important or the only bilby we will have left will be the chocolate species - visit the Save The Bilby Fund

What do you think?


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