Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Easter Bilby

Things I like about Sydney No. 18: the Easter Bilby.

Despite the fact that Australia has an appalling record when it comes to preventing extinctions - more mammals have become extinct here than on any other continent in the world - things seem to be looking up for one endangered species, and it's entirely thanks to chocolate...

Back home in London we have the Easter Bunny, the Easter Chick, the Easter Egg but here in Sydney, come Easter Sunday, it's three cheers for the Easter Bilby. Yes, the bilby - an insignificant-looking rat-like marsupial which is nevertheless worming its way into the hearts of a nation (we're talking an increasingly plump nation mind you) by becoming a national symbol for Easter.

Here are some beribboned and boxed bilbies in shiny plastic (you can't save everything at once it seems):

We have here (apart from Daniel obviously) two different Easter Bilbies by two different chocolate companies: Haigh's (who claim to have been there first with the Bilby idea) and Darrell Lee. Not being Australian I don't have any feeling about either chocolate company but Daniel was very sniffy about his Darrell Lea Bilby so they are obviously the downmarket alternative (perhaps like Cadburys is to Thorntons). Ah well, chocolate snobbery, can't be doing with it, chocolate gives me migraines anyway.

Daniel is also holding a chocolate Murray Cod, which is another vulnerable species now enshrined in foil ("Part proceeds from the sale of this item help the work of Healthy Rivers Australia"). In so-called real life the Murray Cod is enormous, reaching up to 1.8 metres long and living for a hundred years. Which is more than you can say for the average Australian bingeing on Easter chocolate....

Our Bilbies began like this:

And now look like this:

which I think is a very apt metaphor for their current state in the wild.

The only other time I have heard about a Bilby is through Martin, Daniel's brother, who found a Bilby in his garden in Adelaide last year. But it was, unfortunately, already dead. He picked it up and put it in the rubbish bin along with all his other rubbish but then, on reflection, felt terrible that he'd put an endangered species in the trash and spent several sleepless nights wondering whether he should rather have scooped it up and taken it to the nearest natural history museum or at least to a vet or anywhere really rather than putting it in with the rubbish. Me, I would have nipped off with that Bilby to the nearest taxidermist to get me something special for Easter...something lasting and non-fattening at that.

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