A campaign is underway in Australia to replace the Easter bunny with the Easter bilby, a long-nosed, long-eared native species whose survival is endangered by … rabbits. Introduced by early English settlers in 1859 for hunting, an initial 24 wild European rabbits released into the wild had produced 10 billion rabbits by the 1920s. Today, only about 600 bilbies remain in the wild, due to competition from those billion-plus rabbits for food and shelter.
This video shows two baby bilbies who were born at the Adelaide Zoo in November of 2008.
The Foundation for a Rabbit-Free Australia says, point blank, that “rabbits do not belong in Australia.” Young children have been ”indoctrinated with the concept that bunnies are nice soft fluffy creatures” when, in reality, rabbits are “Australia’s greatest environmental feral pest and cause enormous damage to the arid zone.”
Rabbits clearly pose a serious threat to Australia’s wildlife and have been classified as an invasive species by the Australian government. Rabbits, feral cats and foxes are probably all the reason for the disappearance of more native mammals in Australia than in any other nation. The clearing of land and development have also contributed to 17 bird species, 13 mammal species, 4 reptile species, 1 fish species and 1 insect species being considered vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered now in Australia.
Reuters reports that efforts to replace the Easter bunny with the native bilby seem to be working. Stores are selling Easter bilbies and Darrell Lea, the largest Australian-owned manufacturer, has “questioned why anybody would want to buy an Easter Bunny when they could have an Easter Bilby instead.”
Indeed, the bilby, being (like the kangaroo) a marsupial with a front pouch to carry its young, is arguably a better candidate for the job of egg-delivering than the Easter bunny, as the Toronto Sun observes.
As Mike Drinkwater, who cares for bilbies in a wildlife park in Sydney, says, the bilby has “lovely, endearing rabbit-like qualities” and, even more, is a “beautiful, iconic native animal that is struggling.” So if you are some Easter (rabbit-shaped) chocolate, think of the bilby. With only 600 left in the wild, they need a lot of support to survive against so many, many rabbits.
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Photo by Derrick Coetzee