Highlighted Story: Greater Bilbies

Recovering Greater Bilbies in Australia

CBSG facilitated a three-day summit that resulted in a conservation plan for greater bilbies, which has already led to important actions and outcomes.


Photo © Lyle Radford

Facts

  • Greater bilbies are listed as Vulnerable Australia-wide. In Queensland, where as few as 300 individuals remain, the species is considered Endangered. The IUCN lists them as Vulnerable.
  • Greater bilbies are of great cultural and spiritual significance to Aboriginal Traditional Owners, whose knowledge and skills will be crucial to sustained on-ground conservation action for the species across its range.
  • Like other bandicoots, bilbies are burrowers. They can disappear in sandy soil in under three minutes. Their burrows are steep and spiraled, which is thought to provide some protection against predators.


The Situation

The greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis), an Australian icon, has suffered an ongoing decline since the arrival of European settlers, who brought with them cats and foxes, grazing herbivores, extensive land-clearance, and less biodiversity-friendly fire regimes. The species persists in the wild as two isolated, internally fragmented sub-populations. Additional bilbies are held in fenced enclosures and in zoos. Though previous conservation initiatives have targeted bilbies, at the time of the workshop many had lapsed without success and there was no nationally coordinated recovery effort.    


The Process

In 2014, the Save the Bilby Fund approached CBSG to help them plan a future for this species in the Australian landscape. Over the following months, CBSG worked with the Fund and its partners to build a broad coalition of support, which culminated in a three-day summit in 2015. Participants openly discussed past and present challenges to bilby conservation and agreed an inclusive vision for its future, including both immediate and longer-term strategies that could be driven by those present. 


The Results

In line with Summit priority recommendations, a National Recovery Coordinator has been appointed and a new Recovery Team convened with two supporting working groups. A science working group is driving improved protocols for estimating abundance, data reporting, and recording. A meta-population working group is planning the management of fenced and captive bilbies in support of recovery goals. A large fenced enclosure for bilbies in Queensland is being restored and restocked. Funds were secured for a three-day Bilby Festival which took place in 2016, and brought together indigenous ranger groups to share knowledge and build capacity to conserve bilbies in the landscape.


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