Posted on 26th May 2022 by Media Relations
Greater Bilby population thriving in Taronga Sanctuary
Taronga’s Greater Bilby conservation breeding program is going from strength to strength, a week-long health survey of the Sanctuary at Taronga Western Plains Zoo has revealed. The results are great news for conservation of the species – which up until recently had been extinct in the wild in NSW for more than 100 years.
Zookeepers and conservation officers ventured into Taronga’s 110ha predator-proof Sanctuary in Dubbo to gain insight into the population that is normally managed through a hands-off approach. This approach enables the bilbies to breed naturally and become genetically and behaviourally robust prior to release into the wild.
Each night over the last week, the team donned head lamps and winter warmers as they assessed the health of individuals as an indicator for the success of the population, while also identifying individuals for an upcoming major release. Over 70 traps were set to entice the wild-living bilbies to be safely contained for a brief weigh in, health check and most importantly, pouch check.
“In a great indication of the population health in our Sanctuary and even greater news for the recovery of this critical Australian species, almost all the females checked had joeys in their pouches and all individuals that we health checked were in great body condition,” Greater Bilby Keeper, Steve Kleinig said.
“After three weeks of pre-feeding the traps to ensure the animals were comfortable coming in and out, we finally set them for the fourth week and our team worked night shifts to check and identify individuals for future translocation and others for release back into the Sanctuary.”
Taronga Conservation Society Australia CEO Cameron Kerr AO said: “The recent health checks and breeding success of the Greater Bilbies in the Sanctuary is a real testament to the dedicated work and accomplishment of our conservation breeding programs at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.”
“The habitat and in turn the wildlife are flourishing in this very special environment and we can’t wait for many more success stories to come from this conservation powerhouse,” Cameron said.
In the coming weeks, in collaboration with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, more than 30 bilbies from the Taronga Sanctuary will be translocated to the Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary in Central Australia, the second release of bilbies from the Sanctuary since the program commenced.
“We are excited to be working with Taronga to reintroduce Australia’s iconic Bilby to Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary in Central Australia, which makes up part of their former range,” said Kirsten Skinner, Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) Wildlife Ecologist. “Within the safety of the 9,450-hectare feral predator-free area, the individuals will be able to re-establish their presence in the semi-arid region and help secure the future of the threatened species.”
This next release comes after 10 Greater Bilbies were released from the Taronga Sanctuary into Sturt National Park in 2020 as part of the Wild Desert project, delivered in partnership with UNSW, a mere 11 months after the founding bilby population was released into the Taronga Sanctuary. The 110ha Taronga Sanctuary is located behind-the-scenes at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo. The Taronga Sanctuary is currently home to the conservation breeding programs for the Greater Bilby and Plains-wanderer and is made possible through generous philanthropic donations.
For more information visit www.taronga.org.au/dubbo