Image: © Ian Pulsford
The Animal Facts Editorial Team
April 4, 2023 8:43 am
Numbers of the threatened greater bilby have more than doubled over the past year across the network of safe haven sanctuaries managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC). The numbers were reported following the annual census conducted across six Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) protected areas – Mount Gibson (WA), Yookamurra (SA) and Scotia (NSW) Wildlife Sanctuaries along with the newly introduced population at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary (NT) and two partnership project areas in the Pilliga and Mallee Cliffs National Park (NSW).
Across the six sanctuaries there are now 3,315 individuals more than double the estimated 1,480 individuals in 2022 and 1,230 in 2021.
AWC attribute the increase to a new population established at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, the first estimate of a population established for several years at Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary, and generous rainfall across most of Australia which replenished the landscape and provided good conditions for breeding.
Dr John Kanowski, AWC Chief Science Officer welcomed the increase in the overall Bilby population, saying it reiterates AWC’s position as a global leader in successful threatened species reintroductions.
“The Greater Bilby once occurred across 70% of mainland Australia, and sadly, is now only found within some 20% of its former range,” said Dr Kanowski. “This decline represents the loss of our natural heritage, the loss of cultural heritage for Indigenous people, and the disruption of important ecological processes – for example, as ‘ecosystem engineers’, Bilbies turn over several tonnes of soil per annum to create fertile pockets and perfect germination conditions for plants.”
“Through fenced refuges, such as those established by AWC, we have been able to return the Bilby to six ecosystems from which they’ve become extinct and provide them with safe environments in which they can safely breed and fertilise their numbers.
“Re-establishing the species across its former range is also important for maintaining long-term adaptive potential.”
A highlight of the surveys undertaken for the census was the discovery of several pouch young. One of the most exciting was the first young found in the reintroduced population at Newhaven in November.
In Australia the Easter bilby has become a popular character helping to bring awareness to this threatened species and the impacts that the introduction of the bunny has had on them. At the shops it is possible to buy a chocolate bilby.
Image: © Dean Portelli
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