In Australia we are very lucky to have all sorts of cool and unusual animals, many of which you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
This month we are focusing on one of these animals: the bilby. It’s a cute, fluffy little marsupial that is unfortunately in a bit of trouble as a species.
Read on to find out more about the bilby, including what you can do to help make sure these endearing little creature have a place in our future.
Fast bilby facts*
The greater bilby (scientific name macrotis lagotis):
- Is a nocturnal marsupial and the largest member of the bandicoot family.
- Is an omnivore, meaning it eats plants and animals – bulbs, fruit, seeds, fungi, insects, worms, termites, small lizards and spiders.
- Lives in a burrow, which can be up to two metres deep.
- Has a very short gestation period – the female will be pregnant for only 12–14 days and, like a kangaroo, will initially keep the young in her pouch, where it will stay for about 75–80 days.
- Used to have a sister species – the lesser bilby. However, the lesser bilby is now believed to be extinct (it’s hard to be completely sure in such a big country).
Issues facing the bilby
The main issue facing bilbies is thought to be non-native species, in particular feral cats and foxes. Bilbies need a few million years of evolution to be able to cope with the honed skills of these extremely efficient hunters and that’s just not an option.
Additionally, rabbits (another introduced species) are moving into areas that used to be occupied only by bilbies. Because rabbits breed so quickly, they are competing for food and burrowing space with the native bilbies.
The bilby could once be found all over Australia but today its population has dropped so much it is classed as a vulnerable species by the federal government. (To find out more about what that actually means, read our previous blog post about threatened species in Australia). Very sad news indeed.
Don’t feel helpless, you can make a difference
Now at Cool To Be Kind To Animals we’re not all about doom and gloom! We also want to make sure we show you the positive things people are doing to help and even how you can do your bit.
1. The Save The Bilby Fund
The Save The Bilby Fund is a really cool organisation that is absolutely determined to save the bilby. They run bilby education and breeding programs and have also created a large predator-free area for bilbies in Currawinya National Park, Queensland. Learn more about their great work on their website. (Check out their cool fridge magnets too.)
2. Buy chocolate (no really!)
Pink Lady Chocolates has stepped up to fill the boots of Darrell Lea and is producing this year’s chocolate bilbies. (We’ve heard they are even tastier.) What a great way to celebrate this Easter AND help support the valuable work of the Save The Bilby Foundation. Click here for stockists.
3. Get your cat neutered
We love kitties, but feral cats are a real problem for bilbies. There are millions of feral cats in Australia and we really need to make sure that as responsible cat owners we aren’t adding to this problem (for the sake of cats as well as bilbies). So, one thing you can do is make sure your cat is neutered as this will help to stop the creation of stray and unwanted litters and the spread of feral cats across Australia.
Additionally, if you have a cat and live in an area with a known bilby population, wildlife organisations suggest that you keep your cats inside, particularly at night, as this is the time they are most likely to harm the little creatures. If your cat does go outside, they also recommended that you put a bell on its collar as this can help warn bilbies they are coming.
Get involved with CTBK
Like what you read? The Cool To Be Kind To Animals project needs your help to grow into a successful animal care educational movement. Please share this article to raise awareness of the plight of bilbies and the project.
Take care – of all animals! The Cool To Be Kind To Animals team
*Source: Save The Bilby Fund. Chocolate Bilbies are Back image © Save The Bilby Fund