Bilbies set to return to NSW National Parks for the first time in 100 years
The Greater Bilby – one of Australia’s most iconic threatened mammals – is set to return to a New South Wales national park after becoming extinct in the state more than 100 years ago.
Australian Wildlife Conservancy will reintroduce Bilbies to the Pilliga forests in northern NSW in November 2018 as part of the State Government’s Saving our Species program, under which AWC has been engaged to manage a 35,750 hectare area of the Pilliga State Conservation Area and National Park (Pilliga project area).
Watch the Channel 7 exclusive feature on the AWC/NSW Government partnership which is bringing the Bilby back to the Pilliga forest in northern NSW.
It is an historic step for Bilby conservation: other than the Bilby population at AWC’s Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary on the NSW/SA border, the last record of a Bilby in NSW was near Wagga in 1912.
Like many other native mammal species, Bilbies were wiped out by introduced predators, particularly feral cats and foxes. Across Australia, feral cats kill millions of native animals every night.
In preparation for their arrival in the Pilliga, AWC has commenced work on the construction of a specially designed, 32 kilometre, feral cat and fox-proof fence to create a secure 5,800 hectare, feral predator-free area into which wild Bilbies will be reintroduced.
In two to three months, the AWC team will:
- install around 6,500 fence pickets;
- roll-out 300 kms of plain wire;
- put in place 96 kms of netting; and
- attach 750,000 clips (to hold netting in place).
Once the fence is completed, all feral cats and foxes will be removed from the 5,800 hectares of forest, ready for the arrival of Bilbies in November. The Bilby population will, over time, grow to an estimated 850 animals, almost 10 per cent of the total Australian population.
Five other mammals that are extinct in NSW, the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby, the Brush-tailed Bettong, the Western Barred Bandicoot, the Plains Mouse and the Western Quoll, will be reintroduced to the Pilliga within the next three years, making it one of the nation’s most important endangered species projects.
The Pilliga project represents a unique partnership between the NSW Government (National Parks and Wildlife Service) and the non-profit AWC, harnessing the power of the public and private (philanthropic) sectors as part of a bold initiative to turn back the tide of extinctions in Australia.
The establishment of large feral-free areas is the only option for securing the return of the Bilby and other regionally-extinct mammals to areas such as the Pilliga.
The Pilliga project is also delivering great outcomes for the local community, with additional employment and investment in local business. The reintroduction of iconic animals such as the Bilby will also create a stunning new visitor attraction.
Once abundant across most of Australia, the Bilby has disappeared from over 90 per cent of its historic range, primarily as a result of feral cats and foxes. In NSW, the Bilby was originally found across the State, west of the Great Dividing Range.
AWC already protects more than 10 per cent of Australia’s Bilby population in its wildlife sanctuaries at Scotia, Yookamurra (South Australia) and Mt Gibson (Western Australia), and is working with the Queensland Government to protect Bilbies at Astrebla and Diamantina National Parks.
In addition to the Pilliga project, AWC will be reintroducing Bilbies to feral predator-free areas at Mallee Cliffs (south-western NSW, near Mildura) and Newhaven (central Australia). Within 10 years, AWC could protect over 5,000 Bilbies – delivering a massive increase to the current surviving population.