Bilbies not bunnies is the message from the Ipswich Nature Centre and one young Ipswich resident this Easter.
Bilbies remain classified as a vulnerable species with only about 10,000 left in remote parts of Australia.
Mikaela Van Haren, 13, from Springfield Lakes, raised $1565.30 through the Containers for Change bottles and cans exchange program, bake sales, car washes and even selling her toys.
She reached out to the Ipswich Nature Centre, which has successfully bred bilbies, to help her get in touch with the Save the Bilby Fund to make a donation.
Mikaela started fundraising after the 2019 bushfires when she saw so many animals that needed help after losing their homes.
“I felt gutted and I needed to do something to help,” she said.
“I try to help those animals that are most at risk, especially those that aren’t really spoken about. I’ve always loved the bilby and it seems unfair they are only remembered at Easter.
“I love knowing I am making a difference, even if I am only helping one animal – it makes it all worthwhile.”
Mikaela donated the money to the Save The Bilby Fund on Tuesday, 4 April, at council’s recently refurbished Queens Park Environmental Education Centre.
Ipswich City Council Environment and Sustainability Committee Chairperson Councillor Russell Milligan said Mikaela was an inspiration.
“The Ipswich Nature Centre has a long-standing history of raising awareness of the plight of the bilby and has bred bilbies successfully in the past, most recently in 2018 when a male was born and in 2017 when female triplets were born,” Cr Milligan said.
“These bilbies went on to be released at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy at Mt Gibson.
“The Ipswich Nature Centre is a great place to learn about Australia’s unique wildlife that has been so inspirational for Mikaela – we hope to inspire other residents to support our native wildlife in whatever way they can.
“We’re very fortunate to not only have bilbies, but dingoes, emus, kangaroos and many other native flora and fauna, in the heart of Ipswich right here in Queens Park.”
Save The Bilby Fund director Al Mucci accepted the donation from Mikaela and thanked her for her hard work.
“We really depend on individuals across Australia just doing their little part to help save the bilbies,” Mr Mucci said.
“Mikaela’s efforts will go towards projects at our Charleville Breeding Facility and helping the bilby population in Currawinya National Park, where a population survey a year ago estimated a population of 450, which is great news for the recovery of the species.
“Bilbies are only found in small areas of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland, so this Easter, please remember bilbies not bunnies.”
Through Save the Bilby Fund, the Queensland Government, and the ZAA Species Management Program, bilbies are being released into 13 fenced sites across Australia.
Bilbies are one of the fastest breeding mammals on earth with a 12 to 14 day pregnancy, but their survival in the wild is fragile, mainly due to introduced predators.
Ipswich Nature Centre at Queens Park is open seven days a week during the school holidays from 9.30am to 4pm.