Unlike many places in Australia, the Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is still present in the Kimberley in Western Australia due to no or lower densities of rabbits and foxes, and ongoing management by Aboriginal rangers. This makes it an important wild refugia in Australia. Unfortunately, bilbies are still threatened in the region by habitat changes resulting from wrong-way fire, land-clearing and over-grazing.
Bilbies are culturally important animals to Aboriginal peoples in the Kimberley, having an important place in Dreaming stories, songs and dances across a number of different language groups. They are ecologically important as well, acting as an ecosystem engineer whose burrows provide shelter for other animals and whose foraging increases seed propagation and therefore regeneration after clearing, drought or fire.
Environs Kimberley has been supporting Aboriginal Rangers in the Kimberley with bilby conservation work for many years now, and this will continue through new funding from the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife and Rangelands NRM.
This new project will support Aboriginal Rangers from the Fitzroy Crossing region to further document bilbies and manage their threats through:
- Increasing the knowledge of key bilby populations and their threats through ecological surveys
- Carrying out right-way fire management around key bilby populations
- Increasing the transfer of bilby cultural and scientific knowledge to the community through signage and school engagement.
This project is an exciting next step in Ranger co-led bilby management in the Kimberley, through which the combination of cultural and scientific knowledge will help keep this wild bilby refugia healthy into the future.
Written by: Dr. Malcolm Lindsay, Ecologist, Environs Kimberley.
This project is supported through a FNPW Community Conservation Grant.