Bilbys for Easter
The Bilby is one of Australia’s unique creatures. It is easily recognised by its long, rabbit-like ears, and long soft blue-grey fur. The Bilby once roamed over most of mainland Australia’s semi-arid areas. Today they are found in isolated pockets of central Australia, where only a few thousand remain. This has left the Bilby tentatively balanced on the very edge of extinction.
Easter conjures up different images to many people. For me as a child, the Easter holidays meant the much craved for time off school, and the excuse to fill my cheeks to the point of obscurity with chocolate.
When you’re a kid, it doesn’t take much to get you excited. The thought of waking up on a particular morning and being allowed to eat chocolate before breakfast, was enough to have me up at daybreak heading into my younger sisters room to alerten her to the fact – that yes, it was Easter morning – and Easter meant chocolate.
With my sister in tow, the hunt would begin. You see, we knew we would be given chocolate – we just had to find it. Now, our mother wasn’t silly, she knew that children can barely contain their excitement at the thought of delicious delights in the early hours of the day. So the plan was to provide us with a form of quiet entertainment to keep us occupied, so our parents could at leasts have a little bit of a sleep-in.
There are plenty of places outdoors to hide these scrumptious pre-breakfast morsels, pot plants, letterboxes, under the grevilla bushes. But the fondest memory I have is of our father (not one to miss an opportunity), placing three glittering golden foil-wrapped chocolate eggs in an abandoned ducks nest.
My younger sister was so excited when she made this wonderful discovery, which she raced inside immediately to tell Mum and Dad that the ducks had left her a special present too. Her big blue eyes sparkled in amorous delight, and she wouldn’t stop talking about it all day. Our father just couldn’t help himself, after my sister and I had gone to our beds that night, he quietly snuck outside and placed another three chocolate eggs in the gift-bearing nest.
Before the sun had barely touched upon our home, my sister came running into my room, brimming over with excitement. In her small hands, she lovingly held another three golden-wrapped chocolate eggs. And so, each new morning that Easter, she would arise with the sun, and race outside in anticipated delight, to see if the ducks had laid any more chocolate eggs, just for her. Sadly, the Easter-break came to an end, and Dad had to tell her that the ducks had now gone away.
Nevertheless, time moves on. And with time comes knowledge – that ducks don’t lay chocolate eggs, and ‘bunnies’ are one of Australia’s worst environmental pests. No longer can I look bring myself to buy an image of something that does so much damage to our sunburnt land. However, the prospect of guiltless chocolate at Easter is once again within my grasp. I learnt about a little native creature called a Rabbit-Eared Bandicoot, better known to many, as a Bilby.
Put forth as an indigenous Easter symbol, The Anti-Rabbit Research Foundation of Australia (ARRFA) chose the Bilby to mascot its campaign to replace the Easter Bunny, with the ‘Easter Bilby’. They are a non-profit organisation, and all proceeds raised by the sale of chocolate Bilbies each Easter go towards research and conservation efforts towards the recovery of the endangered Bilby.
So once again I can indulge in the delicacy of chocolate at Easter, by buying chocolate Bilbies. And the rewards for helping our native wildlife are many. It’s not just that warm fuzzy feeling you get when helping to secure a long term future for the Bilby, but also the taste, of the exquisite chocolate gently melting on the tongue. Mmm…
- Once spread throughout over 70% of Australia, Bilbies are today restricted to a mere 20% of their former range.
- Bilbies are nocturnal animals; they shelter in their burrows during the day, emerging in the evenings to feed.
- Bilbies feed on a variety of insects, larvae, seeds, bulbs, fruit and fungi – which also provides them with the moisture they need to survive in the desert regions that inhibit.
- Although they have poor vision, Bilbies use their keen sense of smell and hearing to unearth food. Their large, almost hairless ears are important for keeping them cool.
- Bilbies can breed throughout the year. In ideal conditions, a female Bilby can produce a litter of one to three young, four times a year.
- Rabbits are one of the Bilbies greatest threats. They take over the Bilbies burrows, destroy their habitat and out-competed them for food. Within ten years of rabbits moving into the Bilbies home range, the Bilbies disappear.
- Other negative impacts directly effecting Bilbies are the introduced feral animals – foxes and feral cats, which prey upon the Bilbies.
- Other threats include habitat lose due to farming and grazing, and competition for food from the introduced domestic animals, such as sheep and cattle.
For further information concerning the ‘Easter Bilby’, contact the Anti-Rabbit Research Foundation of Australia on (08) 8410 3577