Bilby Joeys Born at Alice Springs Desert Park

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Alice Springs Desert Park, in central Australia, has produced two new resident marsupials.

The Greater Bilby is currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, so the birth of the two healthy little male Bilbies puts the Desert Park on the conservation front and helps ensure that the unique marsupial will survive for generations to come.

Specialist Zoo Keeper, Bronte Stray, said these two Bilbies are part of the National Recovery Plan and are genetically important to the program.

Ms. Stray began, “The boys will help in diversifying the gene pool, unlike many marsupials, the male Bilby actually helps protect and raise the young.

“Bilbies are slowly becoming endangered because of environmental factors which encompass habitat loss and change, and competition with other animals and feral predators.

“The Bilby is perfectly designed for foraging for food with its huge ears and very good nose, the Bilby doesn’t need good eye sight, as it listens and smells for invertebrates, fruits, seeds and even witchetty grubs, which are inside tree roots. It also doesn’t need to drink as it can get all its water from its food, especially tubers and roots which can have very high water content,” continued Ms. Stray.

The National Recovery Program includes captive breeding, monitoring populations, and re-establishing Bilbies where they once lived.

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4_P1010031Photo Credits: Alice Springs Desert Park

The Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis), often referred to simply as the Bilby since the Lesser Bilby (Macrotis leucura) became extinct in the 1950s, is an Australian species of nocturnal omnivorous animal in the order Peramelemorphia. (Other vernacular names include dalgyte, pinkie, or rabbit-eared bandicoot).

The species lives in arid areas of central Australia, but their native range and population is in decline.

They do not need to drink water and get all the moisture they need from their food, which includes: insects and their larvae, seeds, spiders, bulbs, fruit, fungi, and very small animals. Most of their food is found by digging or scratching in the soil, and using their very long tongues.

Greater Bilbies have a short gestation period of about 12–14 days, one of the shortest among mammals. Their young are only 0.25 in (0.6 cm) long and very underdeveloped when they are born. They crawl to the mother’s pouch and latch onto one of her eight teats, and they leave the pouch after 70–75 days. But they will remain in the burrow for two to three weeks before independence. Litters usually consist of one to three joeys, and females can have up to four litters per year, depending on conditions.

The baby Bilbies can now be viewed at the Desert Park Nocturnal House.

For further details and park information visit www.alicespringsdesertpark.com.au.

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