Western Queensland Road Trip #5 Charleville
Everyone is familiar with Australia’s native animals the koala and the kangaroo. But you may not have heard of another of our favourites, the bilby.
Bilbies are desert-dwelling nocturnal marsupials. Once their habitat covered more than 70% of Australia but with the importation of foxes, rabbits and cats their numbers have declined to the point where they have been declared a vulnerable species. In western Queensland, there are fewer than 600 bilbies living in the wild.
In an effort to prevent the extinction of bilbies, the Save the Bilby Fund was established in 1999. The fund’s ongoing vision is to preserve and protect bilbies by developing a captive breeding program and creating a predator free zone within Currawinya National Park where mature bilbies can be released and monitored.
The fund’s home base is the Charleville Bilby Experience at the historic Charleville Railway Station.
Displays explain the bilbies’ life cycle, behaviour and diet. They are excellent diggers and construct several long burrows close to each other. Like many Australian native animals they are marsupials; their young live in a pouch. Similar to wombats, a bilby’s pouch opens at the back. This prevents dirt from going in when the bilby is digging.
A full size model depicts the predator proof fence constructed at Currawinya.
The main attraction at the centre is the nocturnal house, where bilbies can be seen in an enclosure replicating their natural desert environment. Only a couple of these swift moving animals are on show at any time. Their appearance is distinctive, with silky fur, large ears and a long white tipped tail. As they dart around logs in the darkened enclosure, they’re little more than a blur – it’s difficult to capture a clear image.
With the help of the Save the Bilby Fund, these endearing creatures should be able to stay one step ahead of extinction.