“When I first moved to Ipswich from Charleville, a lot of people had never even heard of a bilby let alone seen one.”
Frank Manthey is the man who bought the first bilbies to Ipswich back in 2002.
That is what started the wheels turning for the Ipswich Nature Centre building a world class enclosure.
“It plays a major role in the National Recovery Plan for the species,” Mr Manthey said.
“It’s a real feather in our cap.”
Affectionately regarded as ‘Australia’s Easter bunny’, it has huge, soft, sensitive ears and a long pointy snout ending with a cute-as-a-button pink nose. They are also shy and their long claws and strong arms allow them to dig rapidly in the desert soil to hide.
They have a long tail and females have a pouch. Bilbies are about the size of a small cat and although they used to inhabit about 70 per cent of Australia, there are very few left in the wild.
Carbon dating suggests they have been around for 15 million years.
The Ipswich Nature Centre has a world class bilby breeding enclosure that allows visitors a rare look at the bilby up close. The enclosure is a nocturnal house that turns day to night so visitors can see them when they are most active.
Mr Manthey has dedicated his life to educating the children through his conservation work for bilbies visiting schools all over Queensland and beyond.
“The work we do and the support we are giving is absolutely critical, if we want any left for future generations,” he said.
“Ipswich is a major key player in that role. The burrow at the Ipswich Nature Centre is a large size and it’s made out of false rock. It looks like a bilby burrow, not just a box. A lot of thought has gone into creating the best possible home for them.”
Ipswich Nature Centre senior zoologist Nicole Richards said there are currently a breeding pair living there who have not had a joey yet, but she is hoping to find some in the pouch very soon.
“Through Save the Bilby Fund, Queensland Government, and the National Recovery Plan for the species, plans are in place for bilbies to be released into Currawinya National Park and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy Mt Gibson,” she said.
“The Ipswich Nature Centre has bred bilbies successfully in the past, most recently we had female triplets. Each of these girls was relocated from the Ipswich Nature Centre to other facilities and one was released at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy Mt Gibson.
“Bilbies are one of the fastest breeding mammals on earth with a pregnancy of just 12 to 14 days. However, they face ongoing threats from feral cats, foxes, rabbits and habitat change.”
The bilby was celebrated on Sunday with a national Bilby Day. Held on the second Sunday of September, it’s the only Australian animal with its own day.
You can see Bilbies at the Ipswich Nature Centre, Queens Park, Goleby Avenue, Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30am to 4pm.
They are also open during the school holidays seven days a week.