More Bilbies released at Mt Gibson to boost genetic diversity

More Bilbies released at Mt Gibson to boost genetic diversity
Mt Gibson
Field Programs
Feral cat and fox control | Wildlife translocations
Greater Bilby

December 2017:

The Bilby population at Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary received a boost last month, with eight more of the nationally threatened marsupials released into the sanctuary. The move highlights the importance of Mt Gibson for Bilby conservation – the population there is ultimately expected to grow to 600 individuals, about 5% of the entire global population.

The aim of these latest translocations is to ensure a healthy level of genetic diversity among the reintroduced Bilbies. To achieve a good mix, animals were sourced from multiple different sites across Australia, including zoos and wildlife sanctuaries in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary is home to the largest feral predator-free area on mainland Western Australia. A number of other threatened mammal species have already been reintroduced to the massive fenced area, including Numbats, Red-tailed Phascogales, and Banded Hare-wallabies. Mt Gibson is the first site in Australia where eight different species have been reintroduced.

Coming from captive environments, the new Bilbies have initially been introduced into a smaller ‘delayed-release’ enclosure to acclimatise before they are released into the greater 7,800 hectare feral predator-free fenced area. The delayed-release site has been carefully prepared for its new inhabitants, with watering points and pre-made burrows installed to provide shelter as the Bilbies settle in over the coming weeks. The Bilbies are being monitored by a trained observer, using spotlighting and checking for digging activity around the burrows. They have already been observed foraging for food and altering their pre-made burrows, and seem to be settling in to their new environment.

The Bilbies have also been fitted with special tail-mounted VHF transmitters so that AWC ecologists will be able to track their movements as they transition into the wider predator-free area.

Bilbies were first released at Mt Gibson in December 2016, returning to the wild in south-western Australia after an absence of several decades. The species has disappeared from more than 80% of its historical range, mainly due to the impact of predation by feral cats and foxes. Around 15% of the wild Bilby population lives on AWC properties, and AWC’s current projects are set to increase the total population by 70% over the next five to 10 years.

AWC worked with a number organisations to carry out this round of successful Bilby translocations. Captive-bred Bilbies were sourced from Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, Alice Springs Desert Park, Ipswich Nature Centre, Darling Downs Zoo and Monarto Zoo, with the support of the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), and the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA).