Bilby populations booming at Currawinya

Issued: 12 November 2020

Image of a Greater Bilby (<em>Macrotis lagotis</em>). Photo: Qld Govt.Open larger image
Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis). Photo: Qld Govt.

Recent heavy rains and favourable weather conditions have resulted in a booming bilby population at the 2500-hectare enclosure at Currawinya National Park, with numbers estimated to be 3-4 times the initial release group.

Monitoring using remote cameras and trackers attached to the base of the bilbies tail are revealing exciting news – these endangered  marsupials are thriving at Currawinya and efforts to save the  species in a long-standing partnership with Save the Bilby Fund are delivering early signs of success.

DES Director Threatened Species Operations Manda Page said the recent developments were encouraging.

“In April 2019 the first six animals were released into the enclosure. Then another 14 animals were added in September last year and monitoring results indicate that numbers are likely to be up around 60 to 80 animals. This is very encouraging,” Dr Page said.

“The long-term goal is to release bilbies into the park outside the fence, with their survival aided by a control program on feral cats, foxes and wild dogs.”

Bilbies are one of the fastest breeding mammals on earth with a pregnancy of just 12 to 14 days, but their survival in the wild is tenuous, mainly due to introduced predators.

Feral cats, foxes and wild dogs are a big threat to these meal-sized marsupials, wiping them out across 80 percent of their former range.

At Currawinya National Park, the bilbies are protected behind a specially designed fence that completed construction in 2001 with funds raised by the Save The Bilby Fund.

After flood damage in 2011-12 feral cats breached the enclosure and the Queensland Government and Save The Bilby Fund worked together to repair and upgrade the fence to withstand future floods and make the necessary preparations to re-establish a population of bilbies there.

DES partners with Save The Bilby Fund to manage the project at Currawinya and breed bilbies at a captive breeding facility in Charleville for this and other bilby recovery projects. This is part of a nationally coordinated breeding program, which includes the Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation on the Gold Coast, and other facilities throughout Australia also contribute animals to this program.

Save The Bilby Fund CEO Kev Bradley said conservation efforts were proving successful.

“It’s possible with continued support that we will succeed in saving this iconic species and make it a true conservation success story. In a year that has been challenging for so many, this is a reason to be very optimistic.

More details can be found on Save the Bilby Fund.

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