Friday, April 26, 2013

B is for BANDICOOT and for BILBY

These are two Australian marsupials that are endangered species.

The SOUTHERN BROWN BANDICOOT (Isoodon obesulus), also known as the quenda from the local Noongar (aboriginal) tongue from South Western Australia, is a short-nosed bandicoot found mostly in southern Australia.

It is always great to see our Australian wildlife featured on our stamps.  Decimal currency was introduced in Australia on 14 February, 1966 so you can see this is quite an old stamp as it shows a face value of 11 pence.

This bandicoot shows some sexual dimorphism with females being slightly smaller than the males.  The average male length is 330 mm (13 in) wit a tail of 120 mm (4.7 in).  Females are about 30mm (1.2 in) shorter than the male, with a 10 mm (0.39 in) shorter tail.  Males weigh an average of 0.9 kg (2.0 lb), females 0.7 kg (1.5 lb).  The fur of this marsupial is coarse and coloured a dark greyish to yellowish brown, with the undersides a creamy-white.  It has short round ears.

Reproduction is linked to local rainfall pattern and many brown bandicoots breed all year round.  A litter of up to 5 young is born after an 11-day gestation and is weaned at 2 months.

While some authorities list as many as five subspecies, the most recent edition of Mammal Species of the World only lists Isoodon obesulus nauticus as a valid subspecies, aside from the nominate; the others are given synonym status.

In many areas of its range, the species is threatened but may be locally common where rainfall is high enough and vegetation cover is thick enough.  Despite depredations from the introduced European Red Fox, in some regions it thrives, being reported anecdotally to be living on properties adjoining shooping and population centres.

Bandicoots live on the grounds of our are St John of God Hospital in Murdoch (not far from where we live) and there are signs around (designed by my daughter for the Dept of Environment and Conservation) telling people that the bandicoots are NOT rats and explaining that they are one of our native animals.  Phil also used to see them quite frequently when he played golf at the Armadale Gold Course.


The BILBY is a desert-living marsupial omonivore, that is a member of the order Peramelemorphia.  Before European colonisation of Australia, there were two species.  One became extinct in the 1950s; the other survives but remains endangered.

These bilby stamps are a much more recent addition to Australian stamps although out of date now.

The term Bilby is a loanword from the Yuwaalaraay Aboriginal language of northern New South Wales, meaning long-nosed rat.  It is known as Dalgite in Western Australia, and the nickname Pinkie is sometimes used in South Australia.  The Wiradjuri of New South Wales also call it bilby.

The bilby has the characteristic long bandicoot muzzle and very long ears.  They are about 29-55 cm in length.  Compared to bandicoots, they have a longer tail,  bigger ears, and softer, silky fur.  The size of their ears allows them to have better hearing as well.  They are nocturnal omnivores that do not need to drink water, as they get the moisture they need from their food, which includes insects and their larvae, seeds, spiders. bulbs, fruit, fungi, and very small animals.  Most food is found by digging or scratching in the soil, and using their very long tongues.

Unlike bandicoots, they are excellent burrowers and build extensive tunnel systems with their strong forelimbs and well-developed claws.  A bilby typically makes a number of burrows within its home range, up to about a dozen; and moves between them, using them for shelter both from predators and the heat of the day.  The female bilby's pouch faces backwards, which prevents her pouch from getting filled with dirt while she is digging.  Bilbies have a very short gestation period of about 12-14 days, one of the shortest among mammals.

Bilbies are slowly becoming endangered because of habitat loss and change as well as the competition with other animals.  There is a national recovery plan being developed for saving these animals: this programme includes breeding in captivity, monitoring populations, and re-establishing bilbies where they once lived.

There have been reasonably successful moves to popularise the bilby as a native alternative to the Easter Bunny by selling chocolate Easter Bilbies (sometimes with a portion of the profits going to bilby protection and research.  (I have bought Easter bilbies to give to grandchildren over the years.  They cost a little more but I feel it is worth it if it will help in any way to keep the little bilby safe).

Successful reintroduction efforts are being made in various parts of Australia one of which is a successful reintroduction in the Peron Peninsula, Western Australia as part of Western Shield.


  1. And everything crossed that we manage to get them OFF the endangered lists. We have some of the quirkiest animals and birds and can't afford to lose any of them.

    1. Yes EC, some of our animals are so unique and we must fight to prevent their extinction. So many people are doing wonderful work to save not only our animals but many of those from overseas that are also endangered.

  2. You do indeed have the strangest animals but I love that it is nice to see them and know more about them. B

    1. Thanks Buttons. I am hoping that not only we Aussies but people like yourself will perhaps learn a little more about not only our animals but those of other countries as well.
      I guess we don't think ours are strange as we have grown up knowing about them and some of them are rather special. x

  3. These two look like fancy rats (or shrunken kangaroos). You have some interesting species in your area.

    1. That is why people who were seeing the bandicoots around the hospital were reporting them as rats. Even our locals can be rather ignorant about our native animals. I wish I knew more than I do about these creatures and through these posts I am trying to learn more and perhaps others will enjoy the experience as well.

  4. I knew the Bilbys were endangered but not the Bandicoots. Perhaps they could be made in Chocolate like the Bilbys and proceeds from sales could go towards saving them. I'd buy them...

  5. That's a great idea River although not that many people buy the Easter bilbies 'cos they cost more than Easter bunnies even though they are usually much smaller.
    I am going to make a point next year that all 3 great-grandchildren will receive Easter bilbies.