Could bilbies return ‘home’ after a century?

Could bilbies return ‘home’ after a century?

From Cosmos (15/5/24)…

Could bilbies return ‘home’ after a century?

A study of bilby behaviour in temperate climates could open the door for the Australian marsupial to be reintroduced to areas it once roamed.

Greater bilbies (Macrotis lagotis) are mostly associated with inland arid environments, but they ranged throughout temperate parts of Australia’s south more than a century ago.

And while bilbies have been pushed to the brink of extinction by predation by cats and foxes and competition for resources with rabbits, carefully managed habitats could provide an opportunity for the endangered marsupial to return to its former region.

“If bilbies are to be restored in the temperate zone where they once thrived, we need to know much more about where they like to go and what they need there,” says UNSW ecologist Kate Cornelsen.

She led a study, published in the journal Animal Behaviour, investigating the movements of 20 bilbies in a sanctuary at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, New South Wales.

Movements were monitored using small GPS trackers fitted to each bilby’s tail. As nocturnal mammals, bilby behaviour has been difficult for researchers to observe, but hourly location data fed back to Cornelsen’s team has shed light on key patterns in bilby movement and resource use.

It’s potentially critical for attempts to help bring bilbies back to southwestern and southeastern Australia.

Greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis). Credit: Martin Harvey/Getty Images


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