Who's Cuter? The Easter Bunny Or This Australian Bilby?
Here comes Peter Bilby-Tail, hopping down the marsupial trail. That’s what Aussies have in mind as spring approaches and they prepare to to shun bunnies again and celebrate an approaching holiday with their own native Easter Bilby.
It’s been a long battle, and largely successful. Locals have taken the rabbit-sized native with huge ears and a pointy nose to heart. Australian kids now devour chocolate bilbies (which are also called rabbit bandicoots). Companies like Haigh’s Chocolates, which created the first chocolate Easter Bilby over two decades ago, donate a portion of their proceeds to helping save the species.
Bunnies are generally not beloved Down Under. They were imported by Europeans almost 200 years ago to become an invasive, destructive pest. The rapacious rabbits famously inspired a six-year construction project resulting in the world longest “rabbit-proof” fence in western Australia. It didn’t really do the trick.
The idea to dethrone the Easter Bunny was born in 1968 when a 9-year-old Queensland girl wrote a story called “Billy The Aussie Easter Bilby,” which eventually became a book. The campaign was officially launched in 1991 by members of a group called Rabbit-Free Australia, who approached artist/author/environmentalist Kaye Kessing in 1993 to create a children’s picture book called “The Easter Bilby.” The bilby of the book does everything the Easter bunny does, but it’s a native Australian. Lots of other bilby books by other authors followed.
Rabbit-Free Australia is deadly serious about the Easter Bilby. Backing the seasonal hero is listed as one of the group’s key projects on its web site to “ensure [that] the ‘bilbies not bunnies’ message is widely promoted and understood.”
Even Britain’s baby Prince George was wooed into the bilby camp after one of the animals in the Sydney Taronga Zoo was named after him.
There are only an estimated 600 of the creatures left in the wild in the west and central deserts of Australia currently, due to predation by feral cats. But they have been also hunted by foxes and driven from their burrows by the aggressive rabbits. Bilby backers hope elevating their status during Easter will help.
Published at Tue, 21 Feb 2017 08:14:53 +0000