For Around the World in 50 Weeks we remain in the Southern hemisphere, but head across the oceans to an endangered species on that huge island, Australia. The Bilby is a marsupial, indigenous to this part of the world. This is a possible beginning to a story about these cute animals and how they outwitted one of their predators.
Target age: 5-8
The Sand Band Trap
In dozens of burrows that spiral the hill
a Bilby group lived in this maze.
The troubles began with the feral cat clan –
This tale recounts the next days.
Gerry Feral arrived with a cohort of cats
staking claim to this desert abode,
Bilbies, who’d been on a seed-searching trip
weren’t ready for cat-attack mode.
The Bilbies, battered and scattered abroad,
re-gathered as dawn lit the land.
In a secret hole they met to console,
each other, and plan a Sand Band.
The Sand Band trick was tested and true,
but hadn’t been practiced in years.
It required some lies and a clever disguise,
and marsupial song volunteers…………………..
Copyright 2012 Joanna Marple
- The Bilby is the largest member of the family of marsupials called bandicoots.
- The Bilby has a long pointed nose, huge ears and a black tail with a white crest.
- The large ears of the Bilby are almost hairless and provide great hearing,
- The long snout, which is pink and hairless at the tip, gives the Bilby an excellent sense of smell.
- Bilbies live in spiralling burrows which they dig up to 2 metres deep. A Bilby may have up to a dozen burrows.
- Bilbies are truly nocturnal.
- The Bilby has a cantering gait and the tail is often carried upright like a banner.
- Bilbies are omnivorous. They eat such things as seeds, spiders, insects and their larvae, bulbs, fruit, fungi and small animals.
- Bilbies are mostly solitary, but sometimes live in small groups of up to four or five.
Before European settlement, Bilbies were distributed over approximately 70% of the Australian mainland.
Presently Bilbies can be found in a small area in SW Queensland and in isolated colonies spread across parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Because Bilby colonies are so isolated, each colony is vulnerable to disease and inbreeding. Bilbies are listed as Vulnerable in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, Endangered in Queensland, and Extinct in the other mainland states.
Major reasons for the decline in Bilby population and distribution are:
o Loss of habitat.
o Hunting and trapping. In the late 18th century Bilbies were hunted for their skins resulting in a big reduction in their population. Many Bilbies were killed by traps and poison baits intended for rabbits.
o Competition from introduced species. The grazing of cattle, sheep and rabbits reduces native vegetation cover and prevents natural revegetation.
o Predation from introduced species. Foxes and feral cats prey on Bilbies.
Facts and figures from the Australian Bilby Appreciation Society