Conservation status

The lesser bilby has been declared Extinct. Listed as Vulnerable under both IUCN criteria and Australian legislation, the greater bilby now exists in small, fragmented populations over about a fifth of its former range. Competition for food and nesting burrows with introduced rabbits and predation by introduced foxes are significant factors in the species' decline. Feral cats have also depleted numbers. Intensive cattle and sheep farming have limited available habitat through changes in vegetation cover and damage to the soil structure. A lack of managed burning to reduce ground cover is also implicated in localized extinctions.

The greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis) digs insects and larvae out of the soil for food. (Photo by Randall Hyman. Reproduced by permission.)

Despite such historical losses, a national recovery plan promises a better future for the bilby. Its key targets include managing remaining habitat and monitoring populations, as well as captive breeding and re-establishing bilbies in areas where they occurred previously. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, breeding and release schemes on predator-free islands and special enclosures within protected areas were showing signs of success.

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