These adorable Australian animals are becoming more popular — so much so that they may push aside the bunny as the country's animal representative of Easter. (Sorry, bunny.) If you've never heard of this creature before, here are five fascinating facts to get you acquainted with this animal with the big ears and the long nose.
1. Bilbies live in the desert, but that's more by force than choice. The species used to live throughout Australia, but development, introduced predators and introduced competitors for food and shelter have changed its range dramatically. While they're able to live in all sorts of environments, bilbies are found only in a few remote parts of western Australia, western Queensland and the Northern Territory. In December 2018, 30 captive-bred bilbies were reintroduced to the wild inside a predator-free enclosure in New South Wales. The last time a wild bilby was spotted in the state was 1912. They're also vulnerable to extinction.
2. Bilbies are marsupials. After a pregnancy of only 12-14 days — one of the shortest gestation periods among mammals — two young move into the pouch and take a period of about 12 weeks before the weaning process begins.
3. 'Bilby' is just one name for this species. "Bilbys are also known as 'rabbit bandicoots' and 'dalgytes,' according to Active Wild. "The word ‘bilby’ comes from an Aboriginal word used by the Yuwaalaraay people, and means 'long nosed rat'."
4. Within its home range, a bilby will dig several spiraling burrows, each with its own single entrance. The spiraling shape makes it more difficult for predators to get in, and the many burrows make it easy to dive into one nearby should danger approach.
5. The bilby is a nocturnal animal, which explains why it has an excellent sense of smell and hearing, but poor eyesight. As an omnivore, it uses its senses to find food, which includes fruits and seeds, insects and spiders and even larger animals like small lizards. As for water, the bilby gets what it needs from its food sources, which is why it has been able to persist in even the most arid of Australia's deserts.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in March 2017.