04 April 2007

Meet the Easter Bilby

As part of a campaign to eradicate wild rabbits from Australia, in 1991 the Anti-Rabbit Research Foundation of Australia (now the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia) developed a campaign for the Easter Bilby, to highlight the damage done to Australian wildlife by rabbits, and to raise money for research and wildlife conservation.

The Foundation licensed the production of many 'Easter Bilby' products, including books, CDs, T-shirts and the first chocolate 'Easter Bilbies' in 1993 as alternatives to 'Easter Bunnies.' They were a success, and it's now quite common to find chocolate bilbies in the supermarkets in the weeks before Easter.

The Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is a member of the bandicoot family. Bilbies are also known as Rabbit-Eared Bandicoots. The Greater Bilby is on the endangered list; the Lesser Bilby is believed to be extinct.

The Greater Bilby, usually referred to as 'the' Bilby, is the largest of the bandicoots, measuring up to 55cm in length (body only) with a tail up to 29cm long. Adult males weigh up to 2.5 kg.

Greater Bilbies used to live in more than 70% of mainland Australia. They are now found only in the Tanami Desert (NT), the Great Sandy Desert and Gibson Desert (WA) and in south-western Queensland. The Greater Bilby's habitat has been destroyed by cattle and rabbits, and they are prey for cats, dingoes and foxes. (You'll note that the problems have come mainly from animals introduced by white settlers.)

For more about Bilbies (and some photos), see:

Australian Bilby Appreciation Society Environmental Protection Agency, Queensland Burra Nimu - The Easter Bilby, Jenny Bright's children's story and also some excellent Bilby information Queensland Museum page on the Greater Bilby

Below: Chocolate "Easter Bilby"