The Easter Bilby

Get to know the Australian endangered species

By Google Arts & Culture

Greater Bilby by Howard HughesAustralian Museum

Move over Easter Bunny, there’s a new celebrity creature in town. Because in Australia, it’s all about the Easter Bilby when autumn comes around.

Rabbit (1940/1942) by Bill TraylorSmithsonian American Art Museum

Australia has a complicated history with bunnies. Rabbits weren’t a native species and were brought to the country by the Europeans in 1788. When they were released into the wild for hunting purposes they became pests and caused huge amounts of environmental damage. Given this, it’s no surprise that folks in Australia weren’t too keen on the idea of the bunny being an emblem of Easter. Enter the bilby.

Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) (2014)United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

The bilby, also known as the rabbit-eared bandicoot, is a small marsupial with long ears, a pointy snout, a black and white tail, and greyish fur. As a marsupial, it also carries its young in a pouch at the front of its stomach. Around 100 years ago, bilbies were a common sight and could be found across more than 70% of mainland Australia. Now, they’re considered a vulnerable species nationally, but in the Queensland region, they’re endangered. The bilby is hunted by cats and foxes, and also driven out of their burrows by rabbits.

BilbySenckenberg Nature Museum Frankfurt

In 1968, a young girl called Rose-Marie Dusting wrote a story called Billy the Aussie Easter Bilby, which she then later published as a book to boost the nation’s appreciation of the rapidly-disappearing animal. In 1991, the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia (FDA) began pushing the concept further to helps increase awareness of the bilby’s dwindling numbers.

Greater Bilby Recovery Programs by Taronga Zoo Sydney

With the backing of several major confectionery companies, the organization now helps raise money for the bilby’s conservation. Proceeds from the sale of chocolate bilbies go towards the Save The Bilby Fund, which aims to grow the marsupial’s population by breeding bilbies in captivity and then releasing them into a safely fenced off area in the wild.

Easter eggsThe Polish Museum in Rapperswil

Since the first Easter Bilby story appeared, other children’s authors have also helped perpetuate the tale, including author Jeni Bright’s story of Burra Nimu, the Easter Bilby, who gives painted eggs to children to ask them for their help to save the land from rabbits.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Easter Eggs-pedition
From chocolate treats to flying bells, learn about the history of Easter traditions
View theme
Google apps