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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

11 April 2001

SUPPORT THE AUSSIE BILBY OVER EASTER, SAYS MINISTER


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has pledged his support for the native bilby as an Australian Easter icon.

"The bilby is one of Australia's most endangered species and Easter provides a good opportunity to highlight its plight," Senator Hill said.

"The bilby's rabbit-like ears have helped make it a popular Australian icon at Easter, particularly as more and more people understand the irony behind buying an Easter bunny in a country where rabbits are pests.

"Prior to Federation, the bilby was commonplace through most of mainland Australia but today this group of ground-dwelling marsupials is found only in fragmented parts of Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and it has been re-introduced to South Australia."

"Threats to the bilby - a member of the Bandicoot family - include foxes, feral cats and dingoes and habitat encroachment by introduced animals like rabbits, cattle and sheep. Rabbits occupy the burrows of bilbies while cattle and sheep eat similar plants.

"Land clearing for agricultural activities has also had a detrimental impact on bilbies."

Under the Natural Heritage Trust's Endangered Species Program, the Federal Government has provided more than $323,000 funding for six projects to help recovery of the bilby. In 2000/2001 the Trust provided over $4.5 million for 87 projects helping to save 850 endangered species.

"The Endangered Species Program aims to prevent further extinctions of Australian fauna and flora and restore endangered species and ecological communities to a secure status in the wild," Senator Hill said.

Other Trust programs like Bushcare, the National Feral Animal Control Program, the National Weeds Program, the National Wetlands Program and the National Landcare Program also help restore the habitat of species such as the bilby.

One project working to protect the native bilby involves a $23,000 grant to the Tangentyere Council in Western Australia so it can work with the Kiwirrkura community to manage local bilby populations. The project has applied indigenous and western surveying methods, feral animal management and trained community members in threatened species management.

"The Save the Bilby project in Charleville, Queensland, also received a contribution of $50,000 Trust funding and is a fine example of the power of a few individuals to make a big difference.

"The project has cleared an area within the Currawinya National Park of feral animals and built a 20km predator-proof fence to make it safe to release bilbies bred in captivity at Charleville.

"Projects like these are examples of the work being undertaken in areas where bilby populations are found to boost the survival chances of this distinctive Australian species."

A number of public and private organisations are helping to raise awareness of the fragile existence of the bilby, including the Australian Bilby Appreciation Society.

"Easter is another opportunity for the Australian community to support work to protect the future of this unique native animal," Senator Hill said.

The 2001 Threatened Species Network community grant nominations opened on Sunday 7 April.

For further information on saving threatened species contact the Threatened Species Network's national office on (02) 9281 5515, visit its web site at http://nccnsw.org.au/member/tsn/ or visit Environment Australia's Endangered Species Program web site at http://www.biodiversity.environment.gov.au/threaten/index.htm

The Australian Bilby Appreciation Society's web site also contains useful information on the bilby at http://www.ozemail.com.au/~bilbies/About_Bilbies.htm

April 11, 2001

Media contact:
Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill's Office): (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia