The greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis) once inhabited over 70% of the Australian mainland and was common across its range until the 1900’s. The bilby became extinct in South Australia by the 1930’s. Today, wild populations are limited to the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory, the Great Sandy Desert, Gibson Desert and parts of the Pilbara and Kimberley regions in Western Australia, and the southwest of Queensland.
Although the extent of their occurrence may seem widespread, their distribution is patchy throughout these areas. The total population has been estimated to be less than 10,000 individuals and has been suffering from an ongoing decline. Due to these circumstances, the Greater Bilby is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Redlist, nationally and in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory it is listed as Vulnerable, Endangered in Queensland, and Extinct in New South Wales.
The Greater Bilby has a National Recovery Plan and is being supported by a National Recovery Team. There are many recovery efforts in progress. These projects include breeding bilbies and releasing them into predator free areas.
Zoos SA has been involved with captive breeding, maintenance of the species studbook, supervising research and contributing to recovery efforts. In 1994 a captive breeding program for greater bilbies was established at Monarto Safari Park (then called Monarto Zoo) as part of their national breeding program, with more than 150 individuals being bred. These individuals either remain in captivity for breeding, or have been released into the wild under the direction of the Recovery Team. Zoos SA also promotes the plight of this endangered marsupial through keeper talks at both Adelaide and Monarto Safari Park.