Easter in Australia does not differentiate much from Easter elsewhere in the world, except for one thing: the Easter bunny. Australia, indeed, has a bilby as an Easter symbol.
The Easter chocolate bilby
It all began when in 1968 the 9-years-old girl Rose-Marie Dusting wrote a story, “Billy The Aussie Easter Bilby”. The book, published 10 years later, drew the public’s attention in saving the vulnerable bilby, an endangered native species of Australia. So little by little, the first chocolate bilby appeared on the supermarkets’ shelves, sold as an Australian alternative to traditional bunnies. But what exactly is a bilby and why is it so important?
An Aboriginal tale: Bilby and the Moon
An Aboriginal tale tells that one night the moon noticed an interesting set of footprints in the red sand in the arid central Australian Outback. Therefore, the moon started following the footprints and saw a curious animal: the bilby. The bilby saw the moon staring at him, and he was scared, so he fled underground and dug and dug and dug to run away. Every now and then he would pop up from his hole and look around and the moon, still curious about this strange little long-eared animal, would still be there chasing him.
Underground tunnels in the arid outback became the habitat of the bilby.While the aboriginal tells this story, according to the escape route and the holes made by the bilby, he is indeed mapping the territory, which is an integral part of every traditional indigenous narrative.
The tales of the Australian aboriginal peoples, all of which are passed down orally, are indeed closely connected to real places, often considered sacred: in this Dreamtime bilby tale, the route made by the bilby was a map from a water hole to another.
So, what exactly is a bilby?
A bilby is a solitary, nocturnal marsupial that has a grey and white silky coat, very long, sensitive ears (his “trademark” that makes it really cute!), and a pink pointed nose. Basically, take a rat, mix it with a rabbit, and here is it: the bilby! :-) The bilby does not need to drink water and it has thick claws and strong forelimbs that enable it to dig rapidly in the desert soil.
Why the bilby is so important?
Digging to look for insects and other small animals, they actually do something very important in the restoration of soil and rejuvenation of vegetation in arid Australia.
Where are bilbies found?
Historically bilby was found across most of Australia (over 70 percent), mainly in the arid and semi-arid areas, but today it’s restricted to 15 percent of the mainland, in particular in Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Main bilbies threats: humans (and rabbits)
Humans, in all their actions, are the greatest threat to bilbies (i.e. destroy bilbies habitat). Starting from the time of European settlers, when they introduced rabbits and other animals. Rapidly growing in numbers, the rabbits have caused great damages to the Australian environment and were the reason for numerous extinct native Australian species. Their impact on bilbies is particularly harmful because they compete for the food.So to support the bilbies conservation efforts, now Australia has an alternative and more local Easter tradition. And we really love it!
If you are thinking to get some Easter chocolate, buy bilby chocolate and help bilby conservation efforts across Australia.Cheers,