IUCN Status Vulnerable
Geographical Region: Australia
The greater bilby once inhabited over 70% of the Australian mainland but is now largely confined to the deserts of central Australia.
Until the 1900s, the bilby was common across its range. Altered fire regimes and grazing competition from rabbits and livestock, along with predation by foxes and feral cats are thought to be responsible for the species decline.
Bilbies became extinct in South Australia by the 1930’s
The ASMP greater bilby captive population is managed through Monarto Zoo
What is being done to help?
Location in wild
Deserts of central Australia (Tanami, NT; Gibson, WA; Great Sandy, WA and SW Qld)
Numbers in wild
Less than 10 000 (including reintroduced populations)
Foxes, introduced herbivores, habitat degradation, altered fire regimes
Type of involvement
Captive breeding, maintenance of studbook, supervising research work
Successful breeding of the greater bilby at Conservation Ark has significantly contributed to the re-establishment of wild populations in SA
Conservation Ark has a long history of working with bilbies having held its first greater bilby at Adelaide Zoo prior to 1907.
In 1994 a captive breeding program for greater bilbies was established at Monarto Zoo, and this forms part of a nationwide breeding program, with the studbook managed by a Conservation Ark staff member. More than 130 bilbies have since been bred in the captive colony. These individuals either remain in captivity for breeding, or have been released into one of the five South Australian release sites under the direction of the SA Greater Bilby Recovery Team.
The first reintroduction occurred on an Island off Pt Lincoln in 1997, a island within the bilbies former range which was free of foxes, cats and rabbits, as well as being of sufficient size to support a viable bilby population. Released animals were carefully monitored to gain an understanding of how the animals were fairing with their new surroundings, and results were encouraging. Within 2 years of release, one third of the island had been visited by the bilbies, and by 2004 enough animals were present to allow animals to be sourced from the island population for further reintroductions.
In 2000, 9 captive bred animals were released into a 14 square kilometre enclosure at Roxby Downs Arid Recovery Project where foxes, cats and rabbits had been removed. These animals have been so successful in establishing themselves within the reserve (with several hundred bilbies now found within the reserve) that several trial releases of animals outside the fenced reserve have been conducted. Trials have involved using one way gates to enable bilbies to move into new areas and also releasing animals into areas where baiting is used to control predator numbers and where animals have been given some behavioural conditioning to respond to signs of predators, and 100 days after release 17/20 released animals were still alive.
Between 2001 and 2005, 23 captive bred bilbies were released into Venus Bay Conservation Park where a predator exclusion fence has been erected across the narrow neck of the Weyland Peninsula. These bilbies have spread from their reintroduction site in the northern part of the reserve, with numbers increasing in regenerating farmland within the predator exclusion fence.
Further reintroductions have also occurred at Yookamurra Sanctuary and Banrock Station. The captive breeding program also continues, along with educational activities at both Adelaide and Monarto Zoos.
Each year at Easter, Adelaide Zoo and Haigh’s Chocolates combine to promote the plight of this endangered marsupial through keeper talks, held at the bilby exhibit within the Nocturnal House. Monarto Zoo also host keeper talks at the greater bilby exhibit within the Visitor Centre at Easter, where the animals are on display year-round.
South Australian bilbies have been sent to Western Australia to assist in other recovery programs.
A Haigh's chocolate Easter Bilby. Proceeds from the sales of these are donated to bilby conservation
What can you do to help?
Haigh’s Chocolates sponsor the greater bilbies at Adelaide Zoo, and contribute a portion of the proceeds made from their ‘Easter bilby’ sales to bilby conservation. A great excuse to feel good about eating chocolate!
- Bilbies became extinct in South Australia in the 1930s
- Bilbies don’t need to drink water, they get all the moisture they need from their food.
- Bilby is an Aboriginal word meaning “long-nosed rat”