SYDNEY, Aust. (AP) — At Taronga Zoo in Sydney conservationists are helping to breed bilbies – hoping the next generation gets to live life in the wild.
In Australia, it’s the bilby that brings treats at Easter – not a bunny.
But there’s increasing fear among conservationists that what is arguably Australia’s best loved marsupial may eventually become extinct if action is not taken to save it.
Once common across inland Australia, the big eared, desert-dwelling marsupials are extinct in certain areas of the country and now classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
According to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy the last report of a bilbies in the wild in New South Wales dates back to 1912 -making them effectively extinct in this area.
The threat is largely from feral cats and foxes that once ruled the barren land in the Pilliga National Park area on the border of Queensland and New South Wales.
Now after years of trapping and removal of rabbits, foxes and cats some of the native animals are roaming freely again. A giant fence also straddles the landscape hoping to aid a comeback of the bilby.
Professor Richard Kingsford, an ecologist from the University of New South Wales explains:
“We’ve got two big enclosures to keep out the ferals they’re four to five kilometres each, fences are up to two metres and essentially what we’ve been doing is building those fences and getting rid of the ferals.”
The bilbies living at this zoo in Sydney will hopefully be released into the wild. These children are having a lesson on why that is so important.