BilbyWhite, furry bunnies are a historic symbol of Easter.  People love them – except in Australia.  It is hard to think of these adorable animals as unwanted but Australians learn quite early about the threat of rabbits to wildlife and farms. Rabbits are not native to Australia and became a major pest here when they were introduced in 1859, because they destroy the pasture and habitat of native wildlife and denuding native plants.  Scientists tried to get rid of these feral creatures by introducing viruses but so far nothing has really worked.  In some states even keeping rabbits as pets is illegal.

This is why campaigns have grown in Australia to replace the rabbit with a native animal – the bilby.  This may have begun when children’s author, Rose-Mary Dusting introduced the Billy Bilby character in the late 70’s. Bilbies look cute too with their long pointed snouts and ears and blue-grey fur.  Their long black and white tail makes them look a little like a bandicoot. These unusual little marsupials are nocturnal and live in burrows.  They eat insects, fungi and plant bulbs.  Unlike the rabbits bilbies are not good breeders and usually have only two young ones.

Unfortunately the bilbies suffer from near extinction for various reasons, including destruction of their habitats by rabbits and cattle, being hunted by cats and foxes, and drought.  Bilbies used to live in two-thirds of Australia but now only occupy the arid desert regions.

Bilbies are being bred at Currinwa National Park in Queensland where they are protected from foxes and cats and at other wildlife sanctuaries in an attempt to save them from extinction.

Interestingly, a toy bilby was carried to the summit of Mount Everest. Tashi Tenzing wrote in his memoir, Tenzing and the Sherpas of Everest: “On the very top of my pack I had attached a small, fluffy toy bilby, which is a highly endangered Australian marsupial.  My son had asked me to carry it and it also symbolized my heartfelt wish to conserve the wild places and creatures of this amazing planet.”

Most Australians, however, still prefer to eat their Easter Eggs shaped into bunnies.  Australians are the biggest consumers of Easter Eggs in the world eating twenty per head.  Although many confectioners, such as the large chain, Darrell Lea, and supermarkets sell chocolate bilbies, the bunny is still more popular.