1967 was the last recorded sighting of the Lesser Bilby. In fact, that last sighting was nothing more than the discovery of an old skull found in a nest of a Wedge-tailed Eagle —it’s thought that this tiny marsupial became extinct around 15 years earlier.
First discovered in 1887, the Lesser Bilby was a plucky, tenacious little creature. While it was omnivorous, the Lesser Bilby is thought to have been highly carnivorous and even preyed on small mammals. It had a fearsome character and wouldn’t back down from a fight. Despite this, the Lesser Bilby couldn’t compete with introduced predators like the fox and cat and the competition it faced from the introduction of the rabbit.
Fast forward to today and a similar fight is being fought by the Lesser Bilby’s bigger cousin: the Greater Bilby.
In the wild, it’s a fight for survival. And every Easter, its bunnies vs. Bilbies: two burrowers with big feet and bigger ears fighting for the hearts and minds of Australians.
The Greater Bilby is one of Australia’s iconic animals. But unlike the kangaroo or koala, you’d count yourself very lucky if you ever saw one in the wild. The Bilby once occupied vast areas across the Australian mainland but there’s been a significant decline over the last 200 years—and population numbers continue to decrease.
Today the Greater Bilby is listed as extinct in New South Wales; wild populations only exist in small fragmented pockets of Queensland, Northern Territory Western Australia.
“People think of bilbies as an animal that lives in the very remote, very arid areas of Australia but this wasn’t always the case — they used to occupy a wider range of grassland and woodland ecosystems as well,” says Andrew Elphinstone, conservation and recovery manager at Taronga Conservation Society Australia.
“Introduced predators like foxes and feral cats, and competition with introduced rabbits, are a huge threat to the Bilby. Now the Bilby only exists in quite arid parts of the country where these predators and rabbits aren’t as well adapted to surviving in, or managed reserves free of feral predators.”
So this Easter, give the bunny the bump and help save an Aussie icon.
Be for the Wild
Taronga is committed to Bilby conservation but it is you who can make the greatest difference to wildlife and habitats. You can do many things to help including being a responsible pet owner and keeping cats indoors at night as well as planting native seeds in your garden. You can make a donation here:
You can also become a Zoo Parent by adopting a Bilby, which will fund Taronga’s work including research and education programs focusing on the Bilby, as well as assisting with the conservation, breeding and preservation of wild animals and their habitat.