ENVIRONMENT
02/21/2017 03:14 am ET Updated Feb 22, 2017

Aussies Are Shunning Bunnies And Embracing The Easter Bilby Instead

Australian kids are devouring chocolate bilbies, with a portion of proceeds helping to save the endangered species.
This is the preferred Easter animal among fans down under.
Zoos South Austrailia
This is the preferred Easter animal among fans down under.

Here comes Peter Bilby, hopping down the dusty desert track. That’s what Aussies have in mind as Easter approaches and they prepare to shun bunnies again to celebrate the holiday with their own native Bilby

It’s been a long but largely successful battle. Locals have embraced the marsupial also known as the rabbit-eared bandicoot, with its adorably huge ears and pointy nose. Australian kids now devour chocolate bilbies made by companies including Haigh’s Chocolates, which created the first chocolate Easter Bilby over two decades ago. The Aussie firm donates a portion of its proceeds to helping save the endangered species.

A different kind of Easter fare.
Courtesy Haighs Chocolates
A different kind of Easter fare.

Bunnies are beloved in many places, but that’s generally not the case down under. Europeans imported them on the first fleet of ships to arrive in Sydney in 1788 and they became an invasive, destructive pest after they were released into the wild for hunting in the 19th century.

The rapacious rabbits famously inspired a six-year construction project resulting in the world longest rabbit-proof fence in Western Australia. It didn’t do the trick. 

The idea to dethrone the Easter Bunny was born in 1968 when a 9-year-old Queensland girl wrote a story called Billy The Aussie Easter Bilby, which eventually became a book.

Members of a group called Rabbit-Free Australia officially launched the campaign in 1991. They  approached the artist, author and environmentalist Kaye Kessing in 1993 to create a children’s picture book called The Easter Bilby. Lots of other bilby books by other authors followed.

Rabbit-Free Australia is deadly serious about the Easter Bilby. Backing the seasonal hero is listed as one of the group’s key projects on its website to “ensure [that] the ‘bilbies not bunnies’ message is widely promoted and understood.” 

Even Britain’s little Prince George was wooed into the bilby camp after one of the animals in Sydney’s Taronga Zoo was named after him. 

Prince George checks out a bilby named after him at Taronga Zoo in Sydney in 2014 with parents Prince William and Catherine,
POOL New / Reuters
Prince George checks out a bilby named after him at Taronga Zoo in Sydney in 2014 with parents Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.

There are only an estimated 600 of the creatures left in the wild in the west and central deserts of Australia currently, due to predation by feral cats. Invasive foxes also hunt bilbies, while aggressive rabbits drive them from their burrows.

Bilby backers hope elevating their status during Easter will help save them.

A post shared by Pia Ravenari (@ravenari) on

CORRECTION: This article mistakenly stated that Easter occurred in the Spring in Australia.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
10 Great Australian Things
CONVERSATIONS