Sunday 9 September is National Bilby Day; an opportunity to support the only Australian animal with its own National Day.
The Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is one of Australia’s most endangered animals with an estimated 600 bilbies remaining in the wild. Captivity-induced stress is an ongoing issue in the zoological industry, and minimising stress is a major consideration when maintaining native mammals in captivity. Short-term stress occurs when an animal is unable to cope with environmental threats and challenges. Chronic captivity-induced stress is often the result of long-term, repetitive exposure to such challenges.
We are undertaking a study to investigate variability in cortisol metabolites, as an indicator of stress, in a captive population of bilbies (at Dreamworld) and examine the reliability of using bilby faecal pellets as a non-invasive method of stress evaluation. The stress levels in captive bilbies are then compared with wild populations in Qld and NSW.
We have also developed a methodology for estimating population size using an innovative systematic scat sampling technique. This has been used to estimate number of bilbies within the predator exclusion fence at Currawinya National Park.
Bilbies have been decimated by feral cats and foxes, and these introduced predators continue to devastate remnant bilby populations in Queensland. Our research plays a pivotal role in assisting the managing both captive and wild populations.
For more information on the Save the Bilby Fund please go to www.savethebilbyfund.org
Associate Professor Jean-Marc Hero is the Deputy Director of Environmental Futures Centre, School of Environment, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus. He is also a Board Member of the Save the Bilby Fund.