With twin Greater Bilbies emerging from their mother’s pouch just in time for Easter, Halls Gap Zoo decided to bring life back into the Easter Bilby spirit here in the Grampians. The joeys, one male and one female, were born to mother Taaliny and first time father Cadel Evans as part of the national recovery plan for the species.
Bilbies once inhabited approximately 70% of mainland Australia but have been restricted to remote regions of Western Australia, Northern Territory, and south- western Queensland. They are currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN with captive breeding aiming to reintroduce them to suitable areas within their former range. Their decline is mainly due to introduced animal species such as foxes, cats, and rabbits.
Given feral rabbits compete with Bilbies for food and burrows, they are not an ideal icon for an Australian Easter. In previous years, chocolate companies have jumped on board by producing chocolate Bilbies at Easter time. Some (Haighs, Pink Lady, Darrell Lea) have been generous in donating a percentage of sales to the Save the Bilby Fund. Sadly, keepers noticed that many children in Victoria visiting the zoo did not seem to have knowledge of the Easter Bilby.
A naming competition was run on the zoo’s Facebook page to name the twins for Easter. Names needed to be indigenous or “Australian” with voting open to the public. The aim was to highlight the plight of the Bilby and to encourage children to celebrate an endangered Australian species rather than an introduced pest at Easter. Banjo and Matilda won out on the day.
Naline Rose Pirani, Head Keeper, Halls Gap Zoo