In Australia chocolate bilbies are an alternative to chocolate bunnies for the Easter holiday. This prominence on store shelves keeps these little guys in the public eye and could help save an endangered species.
A chocolate bilby:
If you are unfamiliar, rabbits are a non-native species in Australia. After its introduction into the ecosystem with European settlers 200 years ago the bunny’s aggressive nature and quick breeding talents have taken a toll on native wildlife. Especially at odds with the rabbit is the native bilby – which once filled the niche that rabbits are taking over.
What is a bilby? They are rabbit sized nocturnal marsupials. Currently numbering in the 1000s, these little guys used to bounce all over Australia. Now they are endangered, from habitat loss due to people, to rabbits pushing them out of their burrows and eating their food supply, and from being eaten by foxes and feral cats. They are omnivores who have poor eyesight but very acute hearing and smell. Like the Koala, they do not drink water because their food provides it all.
A bilby out at night:
A 9 year old girl wrote a story called “Billy the Easter Bilby” in 1968 and published it 11 years later. This story helped to change public interest to move from using an Easter bunny to native wildlife, and in 1991 the Easter Bilby Campaign was started by the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia. Chocolate makers too began to support the Bilby effort and two major chocolate makers donate the profits made from the chocolate bilby sales to groups helping the real animals. A lot of the money goes to fencing projects that keep cats and foxes out of bibly territory and into breeding programs.
Haigh’s chocolates has a page on their website dedicated to the bilby and how to help them, found here.
So if you live in Australia, please choose a chocolate bilby this year for your Easter Basket and not a chocolate rabbit. The program has already helped bring awareness to many Australians who will never see a bilby in the wild. I hope that it continues to help and these little guys make even more of a comeback!
You can read more about this on NPR “Chocolate Bilbies, Not Bunnies, For An Australian Easter“.