What Kind of Animal Is a Bilby?
by Melanie Bautista, age 15
Most people know about the koalas and kangaroos in Australia but have you ever heard of the bilby?
If you live in the United States, you may not recognize the bilby. It is an Australian marsupial that looks similar to a rat or rabbit. Bilbies have been endangered for a while, and it is important to recognize the human impact on their environment.
The bilby has many features that help it adapt to the environment. For example, its long silky fur helps it stay insulated from the intense temperatures in Australia. The bilby also has a strong forefoot; the claws are efficient for digging and help uncover insect grubs. The snout and the ear allow the bilby to pinpoint prey. For survival, the ears give off excess heat so the bilby can maintain a stable temperature. Lastly, their tail helps them signal other bilbies.
Bilbies live in the harshest landscape of Australia. They are endangered animals found in the now isolated northwest region of the continent. The bilby's closest relative is the short-nosed bandicoot, which is also located in Australia. Bandicoots are very similar in size, but they have not adapted to harsh environments as well as bilbies so they must live in a more fertile region of Australia. Unlike bilbies, bandicoots do not need to dig burrows for shelter.
Although the bilby may look weak, it has survived in one of the harshest environments. The bilby’s life span is three to five years, and it usually weighs 0.7 to 3.5 lbs. The bilby shows no mercy when hunting for food. Its diet contains insects, worms, seeds, fruit, roots, and fungi. The bilby starts mating at 13 weeks old, with a relatively short gestation period of 13 days. Bilbies give birth every nine weeks.
Bilbies are endangered because of the detrimental human impact on their environment and the predators that catch and kill them. People should care about the bilby because they are a critical component of the ecosystem, so their extinction would disrupt the food chain.
[Source: The Encyclopedia of Animals]