The idea of the Easter Bilby is much older than many people think. This Australian alternative to the Easter Bunny was first documented in 1968 when a nine-year-old girl, Rose-Marie Dusting, wrote a story titled Billy The Aussie Easter Bilby – a story published 11 years later.
In 1991 the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia developed the idea to increase awareness of the environmental damage caused by feral rabbits. Later, several confectionary manufacturers started creating chocolate bilbies, and several additional children’s books were published around this theme.
WIRES regularly receives calls from people who have spotted what they think is a bilby. However bilbys are not found in the Northern Rivers area of NSW.
While bilbys were once common in many habitats throughout Australia, the lesser bilby is now believed to be extinct and the greater bilby is on the endangered list. The latter occur only in fragmented populations in the Northern Territory; in the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts and the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of Western Australia; and the Mitchell Grasslands of southwest Queensland.
In the Northern Rivers of NSW, our Easter eggs are far more likely to be delivered to us by a northern brown or along-nosed bandicoot. Other animals that might be mistaken for a bilby include the rarely sighted long-nosed potaroo (which is listed as vulnerable to extinction) or pademelons – with both the red-necked and red-legged pademelon found in our area (the latter is also listed as vulnerable).
All these small marsupials deserve our recognition as native alternatives to the Easter Rabbit.