Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and the New South Wales Government are pleased to announce the arrival of the first baby Bilbies to be born at Mallee Cliffs National Park in more than a century.
The new arrivals were discovered by AWC ecologists during routine surveys to monitor population health.
Until AWC and the NSW Government reintroduced Bilbies to the Pilliga State Conservation Area in 2018 and Mallee Cliffs in 2019, this iconic Australian mammal had not been seen in NSW National Parks for more than 100 years. The Bilbies were released into a feral predator-free breeding area, constructed as part of a historic partnership between AWC and the NSW Government under its Saving our Species program. The Bilbies will eventually be released into a vast 9570-hectare fenced area at Mallee Cliffs that is set to become the largest feral predator-free safe-haven on mainland Australia.
AWC Chief Executive Tim Allard says the results of these surveys are encouraging.
“When we brought Bilbies back to Mallee Cliffs, there were 17 pouch young which were not marked for identification, and 50 adults. The exciting news is that our ecologists captured 53 individuals during the last survey and 21 were not marked, meaning that some of them were conceived and born at Mallee Cliffs,” Mr Allard said.
“There is also an abundance of healthy Bilbies with pouch young, including one carrying triplets.”
Mr Allard said there has been a similar Bilby baby boom in the Pilliga. In addition, Bridled Nailtail Wallabies were reintroduced in 2019 and, promisingly, this endangered species is reproducing within the feral predator-free breeding area.
“Without the threat of feral cats and foxes, we expect that all of the locally-extinct species that AWC and the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) are returning to Mallee Cliffs and the Pilliga will be able to establish footholds in NSW once again,” Mr Allard said.
Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world. Feral cats pose one of the most significant threats to our wildlife and have been the major contributing factor to these extinctions. It is estimated that they kill around five million animals every night across the continent.
Large-scale fenced areas, such as those at Mallee Cliffs, Pilliga and at other AWC sanctuaries, are the only way to protect our native fauna from feral predators until a continent-wide solution to the feral cat crisis is found.
Making the announcement, NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean welcomed the news of the new arrivals.
“I am pleased to report the most recent surveys in April and May have given us hope that despite the drought, the Bilby colonies have successfully established and are beginning to grow,” Minister Kean said.
“As the first generation of bilby babies conceived and born on site at these parks in more than a century, they represent a milestone in this visionary scheme.”
This project – which represents one of the most ambitious rewilding programs in Australia – will ultimately see 10 regionally extinct and nationally threatened mammal species returned to NSW.
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