Bilby
Source: Adelaide University Media

A 14-square-kilometer enclosure in central Australia is once again home to bouncing baby bilbies, thanks to the efforts of a project aimed at restoring a larger area to pre-European condition. These rare bandicoots, and numerous other animals and plants, once thrived in the region, but have declined dramatically as a result of land clearance and the introduction of species such as cats, rabbits and foxes. The Arid Zone Recovery Project, however, hopes to reverse those effects by eradicating the introduced species, regenerating the native vegetation and re-establishing the native animals in 60 square kilometers of the Roxby Downs area. The reintroduction of the Greater Bilby (right) is their latest success.

The Project released nine bilbies at Easter. With the second round of pouch young emerging, they estimate that around 20 bilbies now inhabit the site. Researchers plan to take advantage of the bilby boom, which is providing a valuable opportunity to study these little-known marsupials. Preliminary observations of bilbies that have been fitted with transmitters show that the animals are traveling throughout the enclosure and digging extensively for their favorite roots and insects, according to project coordinator Katherine Moseby. The construction of a cat-, rabbit- and fox-proof fence has provided critical protection to these marsupials, and plans to fence in the entire 60 square kilometers should be completed by the end of the year. "Once we remove the last of the rabbits, the bilbies can have access to the whole project area next year," Moseby says. "Then some really interesting studies can be started."