Taronga Zoo has two new bilby joeys born with the help of a little royal magic. The births follow on from a visit by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge earlier this year where they opened the bilby habitat that was named in honour of their son, Prince George.
The resident male at Taronga who is also named George was successfully paired with a female named Yajala who moved from Monarto Zoo in 2013. Two joeys are the first to ever be born at Taronga. At 10 weeks old Yajala has begun bringing them out of their burrow for the first time.
Director of Taronga Zoo, Cameron Kerr said, “This breeding success will help us build on the incredible exposure of the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their son Prince George, which brought the message of Bilby conservation to the world.”
The Prince George Bilby habitat was part of the Australian government’s official gift to the Royal couple after Prince George’s birth in mid-2013. The royal couple dedicated it on the 20 April this year.
Bilby keeper, Paul Davies said, “I’d like to think there was a little Royal magic at work in the birth of these joeys. You could say the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge brought us good luck, as it’s after their visit that we’ve been able to breed Bilbies for the very first time.”
The joeys are still spending most of their time underground meaning keepers are yet to discover their sex. “Yajala is still quite secretive with the little ones. The best time to catch a glimpse of them is between 10-11am, but this time will extend each day as the joeys grow in confidence and become more independent from their mother,” explained Davies.
Bilbies have one of the shortest gestation periods of all mammals at just 14 days. After this the joeys are born they spend 75 days being carried around in the pouch.
Numbers of bilbies have seen a catastrophic decline over the past 200 years following the introduction of predators such as feral foxes and cats. They are also threatened by competition with rabbits for food and habitat degradation. They once ranged across most of Australia but this range has now been severely reduced.
Taronga is working with the Save the Bilby Fund and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy to help protect bilbies.
Photo Credit: Robert Dockerill/ Taronga Zoo