In a few weeks it will be Easter. Of course the supermarkets and the shops have been full of chocolate eggs and other chocolate Easter treats for some time. (Probably right after Christmas but I wouldn’t notice.) Sitting on the shelves among the chocolates is the traditional Easter Bunny. But here in Australia the Easter Bunny has a local rival. The chocolate Bilby. (See also the post on the Rabbit Plagues in Australia – here.)
The bilby is an indigenous animal and, like most such creatures, that means it is unique to Australia. Its habitat has been greatly affected by the introduction of the rabbit to this continent. Those cute and cuddly bloody rabbits have a lot to answer for.
A bilby looks like an odd mixture of several animals – a bit like the platypus. Ironically the bilby has rabbit-like ears. The body looks mostly like a mouse or rat and the nose is an elongated snout. If that isn’t crazy enough for you, its hind legs are similar to those of a kangaroo. They don’t hop like kangaroos however, but tend to lope along (again, ironically) like a rabbit walking.
Males are about twice the size of the females. On average males measure 55 cm (22 in) long, excluding the tail, which is usually around 29 cm (11 in) long. There used to be two types of bilby. The lesser bilby became extinct in the 1950s. The greater bilby survives but is endangered and is currently listed as a vulnerable species.
Why the Chocolate Bilby?
So, back to the Easter chocolate bilby. We know why there are Eater bunnies. They came here with Europeans as a traditional part of Easter. But due to the rabbit plagues in Australia over the years, the bilby is one of the native animals that has suffered.
Part of the idea for the chocolate Easter Bilby is to raise awareness and money to help protect the bilby. The Easter Bilby is now gaining popularity, with some chocolate bilbies raising money for conservation efforts.
Bilbies not Bunnies
A group called Rabbit Free Australia (RFA). The RFA has adopted the bilby as its mascot to highlight how rabbits have forced the native creature closer to extinction.
Also helping to solve the problem is Haighs Chocolates, which helps fund the RFA through its Easter Bilby sales. Haighs chief executive Alister Haigh has said the Easter Bilby was its number one selling Easter line, with sales 10 times greater than sales of its Easter rabbits ever were.
Haigh’s produce chocolate chickens, eggs and bilbies. But no bunny. they have been rabbit-free for over 15 years.
So here’s the dilemma folks…
So the poor bunny rabbit is public enemy number one. Something to think about when you are buying Easter chocolates in Australia. Surely buying a chocolate bilby is great as it helps the native species survive. Another way to look at it could be that if buy a chocolate bilby that is helping to kill real rabbits. All a bit too traumatic for kids eh? Adults need to make the right choice. But don’t be too concerned about the bunnies. Let’s just say that the rabbit is not even close to being an endangered species. Here in Australia or anywhere else. Personally I am going full on Bilby!
And if you think killing the rabbits is cruel just check out the history of how the Bunny came to be such a symbol of the Easter festival…