Posted on 15th July 2021 by Media Relations
Spend five minutes getting to know Greater Bilby Keeper, Steve Kleinig
Steve has been a zoo keeper for more than a quarter of the century having started his career at Monarto Zoo in South Australia before moving to Dubbo where he joined the team at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in 2001.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I’ve thoroughly enjoy working outdoors with a huge variety of different exotic and native species over the years, but my main passion has always been contributing to native conservation species.
What has been your career highlight to date?
There really has been too many to mention but a few standouts are my involvement in conservation programs for a number of different native species and participating in many amazing field trips, conferences, courses and training courses around Australia. Being involved in transporting some very unique exotic wildlife around the country by road and accompanying the transfer of Tasmanian Devils to St Louis Zoo, USA. More recently breeding Greater Bilbies in our Sanctuary at Taronga Western Plains Zoo to release into Sturt National Park has been a real highlight.
What is something people might not know about your role in the breeding program?
Managing a semi-wild population of Greater Bilbies in a Sanctuary does have its challenges because they are a small nocturnal animal that lives in burrows underground, so therefore this means a lot of work that needs to be done at night when they are active to be able to be caught up. I’m a bit of a night owl so working long hours overnight doesn’t bother me. I really enjoy this part of my role.
What is an interesting fact about Greater Bilbies people may not know?
Like many native Australian animals Greater Bilbies are marsupials which mean they raise their young in the pouch. They have an extremely short gestation of only 14 days before giving birth to 1 – 3 tiny neonates. These joeys then spend around 75 – 80 days growing up inside the pouch and are completely independent from their mother two weeks after leaving her pouch. Bilbies can then start breeding before they are six months old, which is only about three months after they leave their mother’s pouch!
Taronga Western Plains Zoo Sanctuary is home to a 110-hectare habitat for the Greater Bilby conservation breeding program. The program commenced in 2019 and has gone from strength to strength ever since with strong breeding success and the release of 10 Greater Bilbies into Sturt National Park in late 2020.