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Resurrection of iconic Easter Bilby

A first of its kind summit in remote Western Australia will demonstrate that the chance of saving Australia’s iconic Bilby from extinction is being strengthened by the work of Indigenous rangers across Northern Territory and Western Australia.

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Kiwirrkurra Traditional Owner Sally Napurula Butler visited the Bilbies at the Alice Springs Desert Park after a recent Bilby survey and cat hunting trip on the Kiwirrkurra Indigenous Protected Area. Credit: Lisa Hatzimihail

The range of the Bilby has shrunk by 80 per cent with small scattered populations now occurring across 1 million square kilometres of the Australian deserts, in mainly Indigenous owned and managed country.

More than 120 Indigenous rangers, from 20 different ranger groups, are joining scientists and government representatives in June to share ideas and experiences on working with Bilbies, and hear about the latest scientific research into Bilbies and their threats.

The 3-day Indigenous Bilby Knowledge Festival in the remote western desert community of Kiwirrkurra will celebrate the cultural significance of the Bilby, collate information from all groups about the status of Bilby populations in their regions, trial the use of Drones to survey Bilbies, interpret Bilby Tracks with Indigenous tracking experts, experiment with the new Feral Cat Grooming Trap and many other innovative initiatives.

Kate Crossing from Central Desert Native Title Services who facilitates the management of the Kiwirrkurra Indigenous Protected Area said “Scientists and Traditional Owners are working together to save the Bilby. The festival is our opportunity to share traditional and contemporary knowledge about the Bilby and its threats across the Australian deserts.”

Indigenous Ranger Sally Napurula Butler said the Kiwirrkurra community was excited about holding the festival at Kiwirrkurra.

“We are looking forward to showing all the rangers from other communities how we look after Ninu (Pintupi language word for Bilby) - setting up cameras at burrows,  hunting  cats, and making little fires so when it rains lots of grass seeds grow up for Ninu.”

Wildlife Ecologist Dr Rachel Paltridge who assists the Kiwirrkurra Rangers with their Bilby management program is optimistic about the future of the Bilby in Australia if we make the right choices and investment in people and management now for the future.

“Through the Indigenous Ranger Programs and Indigenous Protected Areas, we are building terrific capacity out on the ground where Bilbies still occur. At least 120 Rangers are already engaged in Bilby Monitoring Programs and ready and willing to help protect this species, but that’s across a truly massive area of millions and millions of hectares.   If we can ensure that everyone has the best available information and sufficient training and resources to implement management programs we have a real shot at saving the Bilby.”

“And we need to listen to the voices from the Desert who have the best knowledge of where the Bilbies are, where they’ve disappeared from, what fire regimes and food plants they respond to, and why they are worth protecting.”

 

Facts

The Bilby has been listed in the Top 20 Priority Mammal Species for recovery in the Australian Government’s National Threatened Species Strategy.

At a National Bilby Summit held in 2015, it was agreed that mobilising and working with the support and knowledge of Traditional Owners in remote communities offered one of the greatest opportunities for sustained, on-ground conservation action to protect Bilbies across their range.

The Indigenous Bilby Knowledge Festival has received generous support from philanthropic groups such as The Nature Conservancy, Pew Charitable Trusts and Taronga Conservation Society as well as from the Australian Government. 

The Festival is being organised by the Indigenous Desert Alliance, a network of Indigenous Land Management groups from WA, NT and SA.

For more information please contact Kate Crossing from Central Desert Native Title Services on 0409 206 287.