It’s a Greater Bilby baby boom at the Taronga Sanctuary in Dubbo, with 19 joeys born to the conservation breeding program since it commenced in mid-October 2019.
Five joeys are already completely independent from their mothers and weigh between 500 – 700g each, whilst all seven adult females in the Sanctuary are carrying twins at different stages of development.
“We are truly amazed at the success of the program to date, especially considering the drought conditions our region experienced over the summer. During this time we provided extra supplement feeding to ensure the Bilbies were able to cope with the conditions,” said Greater Bilby Keeper, Steve Kleinig.
“Now that Dubbo has received some good rainfall over the past three months and the habitat in the Sanctuary has improved significantly, we are seeing the Bilbies gaining weight and all are now breeding.”
Greater Bilby joeys remain in the pouch for around 75 days. When they emerge from the pouch they continue to be cared for by mum for a further 14 days. After this time the joeys leave the natal burrow and are completely independent.
Greater Bilbies are capable of breeding from five months of age for a female and eight months of age for a male, but this is dependent on the individuals reaching a certain weight.
“Once mature, Greater Bilbies can breed up to four times a year if the conditions are favourable, meaning they need adequate habitat and food supply,” said Mr Kleinig.
“The success of Taronga’s conservation breeding program in the Sanctuary to date is a positive step towards the long-term survival of this species and to helping bring Greater Bilbies back to NSW, where they have been extinct in the wild for 100 years.”\
Environment Minister Matt Kean said it’s thanks to initiatives such as this, that we can bring back the loved and iconic Bilbies that have been extinct in the wild in NSW for over 100 years.
“Through the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species program, this partnership with Taronga will ensure future generations can see these unique animals in NSW for many years to come.
“We have an opportunity to bring them back to NSW national parks by using special fenced off areas and it’s important we do this,” Mr Kean said.
Greater Bilbies can have up to three pouch young, although one or two joeys is more common. Greater Bilbies are pregnant for 12 – 14 days. Female Greater Bilbies have a backward opening pouch so that it does not fill with dirt whilst they are digging.
“Later this year we will add more adults to population in the Sanctuary to increase the genetic diversity of the group further. It is then hoped that in 2021 we will be able to release Greater Bilbies back into the wild as part of the Wild Desert project.
The Wild Desert project, led by UNSW, is part of the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species program that addresses the growing number of plants and animals in NSW facing extinction.
The 110ha Taronga Sanctuary is located behind-the-scenes at Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo and is now home to 15 Greater Bilby adults and 19 Greater Bilby joeys of varying ages. The Taronga Sanctuary is home to the conservation breeding programs for the Greater Bilby and Plains-wanderer. For more information visit www.taronga.org.au/dubbo.