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Conservation efforts being stepped up to save embattled bilby from extinction

Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek admires a happy, healthy bilby in October, 2022. <i>Photo: AAP</i>

Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek admires a happy, healthy bilby in October, 2022. Photo: AAP

A pledge to protect the iconic Australian bilby will continue for the next ten years in a bid to save the endangered marsupial.

The Queensland government signed a partnership with national charity Save the Bilby Fund on Saturday to protect and grow bilby populations across the state, building on a $40 million commitment by the Palaszczuk government in last year’s budget.

The collaborative deed includes a captive breeding program at Charleville and the management of bilbies and their predators in and around an enclosure at Currawinya National Park, both in the rural south of the state.

It also hopes to build on populations at Astrelba Downs National Park, a stronghold for the marsupial where more than 5,000 call home.

Ceaseless burrowers

Bilbies play an important role in the ongoing health of Australian outback environments and have been struggling for survival against introduced species like rabbits.

An individual bilby can turn over up to 20 tonnes of topsoil annually as they forage for food and build burrows, which creates the perfect conditions for plants to germinate.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has revealed a national plan to help save the greater bilby, describing the animals as “Australia’s answer to the Easter Bunny” on Thursday.

“Unfortunately over the years bilby populations have shrunk considerably,” he said.

Once inhabiting two-thirds of the continent, bilby populations are now reduced to just 15 per cent, largely in Central Australia.

The federal government will invest more than $5 million in bilby protection programs, with environment ministers in the Northern Territory and every mainland state except Victoria signing on to the plan.

Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said the $40 million will be used for more on the ground action and research.

More than just cute

“Bilbies aren’t just incredibly cute – they play a vital role in the local ecosystem,” she added.

Kevin Bradley CEO of Save the Bilby Fund said the intensive breeding program in Charleville has produced over 70 healthy young bilbies in the last few years.

“Our bilby population on Currawinya National Park is booming with the favourable environmental conditions we have had there over the last 2-3 years,” he added.

-AAP

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