Australia's nocturnal bilby under threat after floods

Mar 07, 2013
File photo of a nocturnal male bilby at Sydney Wildlife World. The future of Australia's desert-dwelling bilby is under threat after floods destroyed a predator fence which allowed feral cats to kill 150 of the newborn marsupials, conservationists said Thursday.

Australia's desert-dwelling bilby is under threat after floods destroyed a predator fence which allowed feral cats to kill 150 of the newborn marsupials, conservationists said Thursday.

The once-prolific nocturnal creature, which resembles a long-snouted rat, has died out in all but three of Australia's eight states and territories due to predators, dwindling food and .

In order to boost numbers in Queensland, where just 600 to 700 are estimated to remain in the wild and the species has been declared endangered, erected a two-metre high electrified predator fence to enclose an area of 25 square kilometres.

But Frank Manthey, co-founder of the Save The Bilby Fund, said recent floods in Queensland had destroyed parts of the fence, allowing feral cats to roam freely in a devastating setback for conservation efforts.

"We estimated we could have had around 150 newborn bilbies inside that fence, and they've cleared the lot out," Manthey told ABC television.

"We weren't vigilant enough to pick it up quick enough, but the cats did. When we discovered they were in there, it was too late."

A male bilby is shown at Sydney Wildlife World, September 11, 2009
A male bilby is shown at Sydney Wildlife World, September 11, 2009. The once-prolific nocturnal creature, which resembles a long-snouted rat, has died out in all but three of Australia's eight states and territories due to predators, dwindling food and habitat loss.

Manthey said some 3,000 feral cats had been shot in the vicinity in little more than a fortnight.

He also warned that, in a double-blow for , the "Save the Bilby Fund" was in jeopardy due to the collapse of major partner confectioner Darrell Lea.

The fund was receiving about Aus$50,000 a year from the Easter sale of chocolate bilbies, instead of traditional , by Darrell Lea. The company went into receivership last year, closing its stores and cutting off funding.

Bilbies, once prolific across 70 percent of the Australian continent, have been reduced to small, scattered populations across of Queensland, and the Northern Territory.

The bilby is the largest and sole surviving species of the bandicoot family in arid and semi-arid Australia. It typically weighs 0.8 - 1.1 kilograms and measures 55 centimetres in height.

The omnivores use their long, sticky tongues to eat small lizards and spiders, worms, insects and a range of plants. They live in deep burrows to keep cool and only emerge at night.

Explore further: Deep sea fish eyesight similar to human vision

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gentle bilby had 'killer' ancestor

Sep 01, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The gentle rabbit-like bilby - Australia's stand-in for the Easter bunny - had an ancient relative that was a far more fearsome little beast, a new study has found.

Drought, culling hits Australia's feral camels

Jul 24, 2012

Australia's feral camel population has dropped by an estimated 250,000 in recent years, but the arid outback is still home to the world's largest wild herd, officials said Tuesday.

Extinction threat for 45 Australian species

Mar 23, 2011

Up to 45 rare species of wallaby, bandicoot and other Australian animals could become extinct within 20 years unless urgent action is taken to control introduced predators and other threats, scientists warned ...

Recommended for you

Dogs hear our words and how we say them

23 hours ago

When people hear another person talking to them, they respond not only to what is being said—those consonants and vowels strung together into words and sentences—but also to other features of that speech—the ...

Amazonian shrimps: An underwater world still unknown

Nov 26, 2014

A study reveals how little we know about the Amazonian diversity. Aiming to resolve a scientific debate about the validity of two species of freshwater shrimp described in the first half of the last century, ...

Factors that drive sexual traits

Nov 26, 2014

Many male animals have multiple displays and behaviours to attract females; and often the larger or greater the better.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sinister1811
1.5 / 5 (8) Mar 07, 2013
Sad, but not surprising. Feral cats are a huge pest, and have caused the decline/extinctions of a lot of native species. We may lose even more if they don't find better ways of controlling their numbers.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.