Posted on 15th October 2019 by Media Relations
Last night, Zookeepers from Taronga Western Plains Zoo released the first Greater Bilbies into the Taronga Sanctuary in Dubbo to help save the species from extinction. In the following weeks they will be joined by a further 11 individuals.
“The Greater Bilby has seen a decline in wild populations over the past century. Their range used to span across 70 per cent of the continent, but is today confined to small pockets of very arid areas. Sadly, this species has been extinct in the wild in NSW for more than 100 years.
The action being taken by Taronga Conservation Society Australia to save this iconic species from extinction is just one example of how we can protect them into the future,” said Minister for the Environment, Matt Kean.
The Taronga Sanctuary is a 110-hectare conservation and breeding site at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. The purpose of this incredibly important site is to breed a large number of genetically and behaviourally robust bilbies for release to the wild in NSW and beyond.
Taronga’s unique combination of skills across animal husbandry, genetics and conservation management are critical to the success of the ambitious program, the bilbies released into the Sanctuary have been carefully selected to create a genetically diverse founding population.
The offspring of the Greater Bilbies released into the Sanctuary will form a population of healthy, robust Bilbies that will later be released into the wild, starting with Sturt National Park (as part of the Wild Desert project delivered in partnership with UNSW), in the arid north-western corner of NSW.
“The Taronga Sanctuary project aims to become the largest breeding program for the Greater Bilby – literally the engine room enabling this species to thrive at rewilding sites around NSW,” said Taronga Zoo CEO, Cameron Kerr. “That the Taronga Sanctuary will produce Greater Bilbies to be repopulated right across NSW is both exciting and critical to the long-term survival of this uniquely Australian species.”
The five females and four males released last night have been health checked and have had tracking devices fitted to ensure accurate monitoring.
“To be involved in such a momentous occasion in the conservation of the Greater Bilby has allowed me to witness the passion and dedication the staff at Taronga have for this species.
“It is important to have leaders in conservation like Taronga overseeing this program to ensure the best possible outcome for the species in the long-term,” said Mr Kean.
“The Greater Bilby is a very important species for the Australian ecosystem. Bilbies are constantly turning over soil as they dig burrows, improving the overall health of the soil by assisting nutrient cycling and water penetration,” said Taronga CEO, Cameron Kerr.
“As Australians we cannot afford to see this species become extinct, which is why Taronga is dedicated to ensuring its long-term survival through our Sanctuary project. We are excited to be helping bring Bilbies back to NSW!” said Mr Kerr.
Sanctuary keepers will monitor the Greater Bilbies’ locations and movements via the tracking devices and wildlife monitoring cameras.
The Taronga Sanctuary project at Taronga Western Plains Zoo was funded by a major philanthropic donation.
The Wild Desert project, led by UNSW is part of the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species program that addresses the growing number of plants and animals in NSW facing extinction.