Taronga Zoo is celebrating the birth of its first-ever Bilby joeys. The births cap off an exciting year that saw The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge officially open the Zoo’s new Bilby exhibit named in honour of their son, Prince George.
Two joeys were born about 10 weeks ago, but have only just begun to emerge from their underground nest alongside first-time mother, Yajala.
Yajala arrived from Monarto Zoo in 2013 and her successful pairing with Taronga’s resident male, also named George, is a triumph for the national breeding program for this threatened marsupial species.
“This breeding success will help us build on the incredible exposure of the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their son Prince George, which brought the message of Bilby conservation to the world,” said Taronga Zoo Director, Cameron Kerr.
The Royal couple visited Taronga on 20 April for the dedication of the Prince George Bilby Exhibit, part of the Australian government’s official gift following his birth in mid-2013.
“I’d like to think there was a little Royal magic at work in the birth of these joeys. You could say the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge brought us good luck, as it’s after their visit that we’ve been able to breed Bilbies for the very first time,” said Bilby Keeper, Paul Davies.
The gestation period for the bilby is only 14 days, one of the shortest of all mammals. Joeys are then carried in their mother’s pouch for about 75 days.
Mr Davies said keepers had yet to determine the sex of the two joeys, who still spend much of their time underground in their home at Taronga’s Australian Nightlife exhibit.
“Yajala is still quite secretive with the little ones. The best time to catch a glimpse of them is between 10-11am, but this time will extend each day as the joeys grow in confidence and become more independent from their mother,” he said.
Bilbies once ranged over most of mainland Australia, but have suffered a catastrophic decline over the past 200 years due to introduced predators such as feral foxes and cats, competition with rabbits and habitat degradation.
Taronga has begun conservation partnerships with the Save the Bilby Fund and Australian Wildlife Conservancy to help protect Bilbies and their remaining habitat in the wild.