The Easter Bunny carrying his gift basket of colored eggs, chocolate and jelly beans is a familiar symbol of the Easter holiday for many. But there is a movement down under to replace the Easter bunny with the native Australian bilby. The rabbit was not originally native to Australia.
It was introduced in 1788, but did not spread rapidly until two dozen rabbits were released in 1859 for sport hunting. The combination of no natural predators in Australia and their infamous ability to breed quickly resulted in the original 24 turning into a population of millions within 10 years. The rabbits ate much of the vegetation, causing food shortages for the indigenous species. The vegetation removal also caused significant problems with soil erosion. Despite many attempts to curtail the rabbit population, the problem continues today. Currently, the rabbit causes an estimated $AU600 million in damages per year.
This widespread damage to the Australian environment has resulted in the rabbit being viewed unfavorably by the majority of the population. In most parts of Australia, it is even illegal to own a rabbit as a pet. Because of the rabbit's history in Australia, some Aussies decided they wanted a new symbol for their Easter celebrations. They chose the bilby, a native Australian animal and a member of the bandicoot family. Thus, the concept of the "Easter Bilby" was born.
The bilby is similar in size to a rabbit, with long ears, long, snoot-like nose, soft grey fur, and a distinctive black and white tail. The idea for the Easter Bilby has been around since the 1970s. However, the idea has picked up momentum in recent years, as the bilby has become an endangered species (currently, only an estimated 600 bilbys exist in the wild).
Just like the Easter Bunny, the bilby carries his basket full of chocolate eggs and delivers goodies to children everywhere in Australia each year. There are Easter Bilby songs, children's stories, cards, stuffed animals, chocolate-shaped bilby treats, organizations, and websites, all dedicated to this new tradition. So if you happen to find yourself down under during the Easter holiday, don't mention the bunny! .
By: William Smith