One of the things I enjoy most about this time of year in Australia, is how a little native marsupial is usurping the rabbit as an Easter symbol. Children see bunnies as fluffy harmless creatures, whereas in reality they are Australia’s greatest environmental feral pest. Rabbits are the single biggest factor in loss of our native species, due to competition for resources, vegetation change and land degradation. Small wonder many Aussies baulk at the Easter bunny!
That’s where the endangered bilby comes in, also known as the rabbit-eared bandicoot. Same fluffy cuteness, same long-ears, and strong back legs that give it a half-hopping, half-scurrying gate. “They look like they’ve been stuck together by a committee,” says bilby conservationist, Tony Friend. “Huge ears that belong to a rabbit, soft grey fur, a tail that’s stuck out the back like a tufted pencil, and they gallop around like a rocking horse. They’re so different to any other animals.”
To raise money and increase awareness of conservation efforts, bilby-shaped chocolates and related merchandise are sold within many stores throughout Australia as an alternative to Easter bunnies. Bilby manufacturers that donate towards Bilby conservation include Pink Lady and Haigh’s Chocolates. Cadbury also produce Chocolate bilbies, although they do not donate to or support any bilby conservation projects.
Many Australian children’s books have been written about Easter bilbies. One of the first was Irena Sibley’s best selling The Bilbies’ First Easter, published by Silver Gum Press. In 1993, Australian children’s author Jeni Bright wrote the story of “Burra Nimu, the Easter Bilby“. It tells how Burra, a shy but brave little bilby, decides to save the land from the rabbits and foxes who are ruining it. Burra and his family and friends gather together for a wonderful time painting Easter eggs to give to the children and ask for their help. But before they can set off on their journey to the children, they must outwit the rabbit army. What a great story!
Until recently, Australia had two species of bilbies – the Greater Bilby and the Lesser Bilby. The Lesser Bilby is already believed to be extinct, and time is running out for its larger cousin. If you want to help, you can sponsor your favourite real live bilby from the gallery and become a Bilby Buddy. Just click here!
Why would anyone buy an Easter bunny when they could buy an Aussie Easter bilby?