Aboriginal people have been at the forefront of efforts to conserve endangered species that are a part of Australia’s natural heritage. The bilby once foraged over 70% of the continent, but over the last 170 years this population has been reduced to about 15%, as a result of introduced species such as foxes, cats and rabbits. There are now only a few scattered colonies, mostly on land that is owned or managed by Aboriginal people, and one of which is in South-West Queensland. ‘Bilby’ is a word from the Aboriginal language of Yuwaalaraay (or Eu-ahlayi), spoken in northern NSW and Southern Queensland. The bilby is known as dalgyte in Western Australia and pinky in South Australia (see http://andc.anu.edu.au/australian-words/meanings-origins)
In South-West Queensland, through the Save the Bilby Fund, there is now secure fencing for the bilby population at Currawinya National Park (170km south-west of Cunnamulla), and a captive bilby breeding program in Charleville with a visitors’ centre that opened in 2016 at the historic Charleville Railway Station. At the opening, a traditional ‘Welcome to Country’ was given by Bidjara Elders, who also gave special permission to the CEO of the Save the Bilby Fund to use the Bidjara name for bilby, Dhaanguu. Other bilby conservation efforts are now underway to provide additional fenced enclosures in the Charleville area.
A bilby at The Charleville Bilby Experience, Charleville Railway Station
The bilbies at the Charleville Bilby Experience (http://savethebilbyfund.com/index.php/save-the-bilby-fund-projects/charleville-bilby-experience) are thriving in large enclosures with native vegetation where they dig their own burrows and maintain their nocturnal lifestyle. Further information about the Bilby Conservation Plan, and the important role played by Aboriginal people, can be found at http://www.e-library.net.au/SaveTheBilbyFund/Greater_Bilby_Recovery_Summit_2015_Report_and_Interim_Conservation_Plan/.