After three weeks of escape with almost no wifi, therefore an enforced and much needed digital detox I am back and now playing catch up on reading blog posts. I have only just started to catch up and I have clearly missed a lot!

To be honest, I think I really needed that time away from screens, I only took my ph with me and that had very limited data, so aside from the occasional Instagram post, I have been offline for three weeks. Didn’t even check my email in that time. Did I miss it? A little bit but not a lot. I did miss the ready access to instant information. I did enjoy the slowing down though. But back and things are all go again. Finally have the winter book box ready to go, check out the book box page if you would like to order.

So where have we been?

Firstly we travelled to Charleville, a long drive west, to the country of the Bidjara people to whom we humbly pay respect and acknowledge their leaders past, present and emerging and acknowledge their continuing connection to country.

Really we just came out this way on impulse to check out the bilby captive breeding program at Charleville. Have you ever seen a bilby, Australia’s answer to the Easter bunny? Bilbies were once common across most of inland Australia, now they are on the brink of extinction, we only have the greater bilby left, and their numbers are in serious decline, other species like the lesser bilby have already been lost. The chances of seeing a bilby in the wild are pretty slim but there are a couple of captive breeding programs happening in zoos and at the Charleville bilby centre. I saw a story on the ABC about how lockdown had resulted in a pretty productive time for the bilbies, (check out the link, they have better photos).

Bilbies are a flagship species, eco engineers, their loss from the environment has implications for other species who also utilise the multiple burrows they dig and for flora that depends on the bilby to create the healthy soil environment needed to flourish. In contrast to cloven-hoofed animals which harden and compress the soil, bilbies are the architects of a healthy dry ecosystem, where their constant digging spreads compost and creates healthy dessert soils. Intensive captive breeding and release into predator-proof enclosures is the only hope for saving the bilby, fortunately for bilbies, they are prolific breeders, so there is some cause for optimism and the captive breeding program in Charleville is thankfully flourishing. Feral cats, dogs and foxes though are an ongoing threat.

They are fascinating and endearing creatures. They have perhaps the most beautiful fur of any Australian animal with fine dusty grey blue colouring, highlighting their pink ears and long pink noses. There is so much wonder, diversity and beauty in the world we should treasure and nurture what we can.

image Bernard DUPONT

Seeing an animal in captivity is never as rewarding as seeing them in the wild but I am grateful for the opportunity to see a bilby at all. The Charleville bilby experience is not a large experience but it is informative and a lovely experience to have. We saw three bilbies in the enclosure, two smaller females and a larger male, there were hopes for more mating activity, (we were warned the show might have an r rating), but actually at least one of the girls seemed to have had enough of the attentions of the ardent boy. They did not seem at all worried by the audience and were highly active under the red light. They don’t have great eyesight, the red light emulates night time allowing us the opportunity to see the normally nocturnal animal, active.

They certainly make a more appropriate symbol of Easter here in Australia than the ubiquitous bunny. The inspired campaign to replace the Easter bunny with the Easter bilby was born of desperation to raise awareness and hopefully save this unique Aussie and as the last example of the bilby species, they are indeed unique. I think we used to have six different types of bilby in Australia, now the greater bilby is the last.

More on Charleville to come, we started and finished our break at Charleville, the whole holiday was bookended by two great experiences in Charleville.

6 thoughts on “Bilbies

    1. Most of the interior of the country, before colonisation they pretty much existed everywhere in the dry interior and they were instrumental in providing an environment that supported other dry land/ desert life, especially important in regards to soil due to the constant turning over of soil and digging in of plant material. They are our desert gardeners. They look a bit like another Australian animal the bandicoot but they are a completely different species. Bandicoots are more coastal but also under threat from the same introduced predators. Sadly they only survive in national parks with predator-proof fencing and the area has to be cleared of all predators to give them a chance.

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