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Australian Easter Bilby – Goodbye Bunny

Published July 09, 2007        by Nicole

In the United States and many other countries throughout the world, the bunny has become the major non-religious symbol of the Easter holiday. Jumping along with his Easter basket full of brightly colored eggs, chocolate and candy, the Easter bunny makes girls and boys across America jump for joy. Unfortunately, the joy over the bunny has been literally destroyed in the land down under. So there is a movement in Australian society to replace the Easter bunny with the Easter bilby.

Back in 1859, a hunter with one of his great ideas released twenty four exotic rabbits in Australia. Keeping in mind that the rabbit is not native to Australia, one can understand why the population of rabbits has literally exploded causing vegetation and food shortages for indigenous Australian species. Australia had no natural rabbit predators and the rabbit’s infamous ability to breed caused the rabbit population to exceed millions within just 10 years. Despite numerous attempts to get the rabbit population under control, the rabbits continue to cause an estimated $600 million (AU) in damages to vegetation every year (which also results in significant problems with soil erosion). Understandably, the Australians are fed up with the rabbit and they don’t exactly view it as a warm, fuzzy and fun creature like most Americans do. In fact in most parts of Australia, rabbits cannot legally be owned as pets.

Thus back in the 1970’s, the concept of the ‘Easter Bilby’ instead of the ‘Easter Bunny’ was born. The bilby is a native Australian marsupial that is a member of the bandicoot family. It is about the same size as a traditional bunny and has soft grey fur with a black and white tail. Most notably, the bilby has very long ears and a long snout-like nose. However, recently, the bilby was named an endangered species because only about 600 of them now exist in the wild. So as the bilby’s population has decreased, their popularity has increased and the ‘Easter Bilby’ movement has picked up steam amongst many Aussies. Just like the traditional American Easter Bunny, the Aussie version known as the Easter Bilby totes around candy gift baskets full of chocolate, eggs and more that he delivers to the children of Australia on Easter morning each year. From stuffed plush bilbies to chocolate-shaped bilby treats to bilby greeting cards, the Easter Bilby is a phenomenon with traction in Australia. So if you happen to be on holiday in Australia on Easter Sunday, remember not to mention the Easter Bunny!