I’m in the middle of reworking this whole blog thing, but this can’t wait.
I recently came across Australia’s Easter Bilby – something I have never heard of or imagined in my wildest dreams. If you’re like me and have never heard of this magical creature, let me ignite your soul with wonder.
The Bilby is a native Australian marsupial that is a heck of a little digger. About the size of a rabbit, they are important to their environment in a few ways – they dig hella burrows that when not in use by Bilbies provide protection to other animals from heat and predators. All this wicked digging also helps turn over mass amounts of soil, which moves nutrients and allows water to penetrate, which I gather is very important in Australia where the soil can be crappy. Awesome, so here’s where things start to suck.
There used to be two kinds of Bilbies, but the Lesser Bilby hasn’t been seen since the 1950’s and is probably extinct. The remaining Bilby used to inhabit about 70% of Australia and now is down to about 20%. Introduced predators like feral cats and foxes kill them, and this is where it gets real – the wave of hideous, invasive rabbits which basically destroy everything they touch in Australia – is running the poor, useful, native Bilby into the ground. (Rabbits are not native to Australia and are a massive, massive problem there, but that’s a whole different topic.)
Since rabbits are the bane of native Australian wildlife, why the heck should they be celebrated at Easter? Damn good question. In the early 1990’s, the idea of the Easter Bilby started as a fundraiser to help raise awareness about endangered species with money from the sale of chocolate Bilbies going to conservation programs. Australian chocolate makers got on board and the chocolate Easter Bilby became an important alternative to the bunny and remains so to this day. In 1997, Rose-Marie Anne Dusting published a book called Billie the Aussie Easter Bilby. I couldn’t find out much about the book, but it moved the campaign along and there are plenty of Easter Bilby books now.
I am enthralled with this idea and have only two questions: why the hell didn’t I know about this sooner, and why can’t I get one in Canada? Well I probably know why, Bilbies only live in Australia, but still.
Not only is this a unique and fun way to bring attention to an endangered animal, this matters. It matters because wherever you live, there are animals in trouble. Canada has a long and extremely depressing list of its own endangered species (our 5 native species of rabbits are not on that list and they’re no big whoop here because they’re prey animals and literally everything else eats them), and each one of them is on there because of human actions. I could go on a very long diatribe about those actions, but instead I will just say let’s support this symbol of hope for native wildlife, the rare and amazing Easter Bilby. I will find you, Easter Bilby, I don’t know how I’m going to do it yet, but I will find you.
Learn more about the Bilby in this article from Australian Geographic.
To help the Bilbies, check out Save the Bilby Fund.
*This is a new topic for me. I do fact check, but if I missed something important or got anything wrong, I apologize and please let me know.