The other day I met Jackson, the cute bilby at Cairns Tropical Zoo and I was charmed by this another little marsupial.
I jump at the chance of the recent Bilby day in Australia (September, 8th) to tell you more about this adorable less known Aussie animal.
Marsupial with long and silky fur, silvery grey in color.
Large and pointed ears help it regulate body temperature (blood flows through their thin ear tissue and cools quickly).
A long muzzle that tapers to a pointed, pink nose.
A black tail with a white tip.
Size: approx. 40 cm.
The females generally give birth to two young at a time. Like all marsupials, the young are born after a very short pregnancy, so they are tiny and hardly developed. They move into the mother's pouch, where they stay as they grow and finish their development. The young stay in the pouch for about 75 days, after which they are kept in a nesting burrow.
Nocturnal animal, it lives generally alone.
The bilby is a desert specialist, found in small, scattered spots in the Northern Territory (the Tanami Desert), hot dry areas of Western Australia (the Great Sandy Desert, Pilbara and Kimberley) and Queensland‘s Outback (Diamantina NP), which I was lucky to explore.
Unfortunately I couldn’t see one in the wild, they are really rare… but at least I saw its burrow.
Bilbies dig actually burrows up to 3 metres long and 1.8 metres deep to escape the searing sun.
Acute hearing, excellent smell and long sensitive whiskers help them forage at night for insects, seeds, bulbs, fruit and fungi. This diet keeps it sufficiently hydrated so they do not need to rely on surface water (which is rare in the desert…)
Bilbies are classified as vulnerable in Australia (but are endangered in the state of Queensland) because they have to compete for food with introduced animals such as rabbits and cattle. Cattle also trample their burrows. Bilbies are preyed on by foxes, feral cats and dogs.
There are now attempts to re-introduce the bilby into areas where it used to thrive. For example, Cairns Tropical Zoo is particularly involved in bilbies’ cause. They have throughout North Queensland Wildlife Trust, provided $10,000 to the Save the Bilby Fund to go towards their protected release programs where there are restoring habitat, setting up predator proof fencing and releasing back onto safe areas to hopefully build up the population (in Charleville with the QPWS for instance).
In addition they have been holding a number of fundraisers in shopping centres, carnivals and at the Zoo to collect donations for the fund. The little Jackson is staying at the Zoo for special events like ‘Threatened Species Day” and “Save the Bilby Day’. People can meet him and learn what they can do for him and its brothers.