The Greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is LAGOTi – a Highly Rare animal from the Desert!
- There were once two species of bilby – Greater and Lesser – but the Lesser bilby became extinct due to predation from Invasive Species (feral cats and foxes).
- Bilbies are believed to have inhabited Australia for up to 15 million years!
- Bilbies can grow up to half a metre long, including the tail, and weigh two and a half kilograms!
- LAGOTi are ecosystem engineers due to their burrowing behaviours.
LAGOTi are bigger than a rabbit, but smaller than a house-cat. They have long, soft, blue-grey fur, and large pinkish ears. Their nose is small and pink, and sits on the end of a long, pointy snout.
Their large ears mean they have exceptional hearing – the secret behind their ‘AURALITY’ Superpower – and may also act as a temperature regulation function.
They have poor eyesight, but an excellent sense of smell. They use this sense, and their amazing hearing, to find prey under the sand as well as avoid predators.
What does the Greater bilby eat?
LAGOTi is an omnivore, meaning that it eats vegetation as well as insects and spiders.
Bilbies forage at night, digging feeding holes up to 25cm deep to find hidden food. They dig these holes with their forefeet and sniff out anything buried within the sand with their keen sense of smell. They also have long sticky tongues which they use to slurp up seeds. They do not need to drink any water; they get enough from their diet!
LAGOTi droppings are characterised by being very sandy, due to the fact that they ingest large amounts of sand when foraging.
A Greater Bilby renovating it’s burrow at night. Filmed by Hugh McGregor for Arid Recovery.
How does the Greater bilby survive in the Australian Desert?
LAGOTi are desert specialists, highly adapted to living in a hot, dry environment. They use their long claws to dig burrows up to three metres long with multiple chambers, and may use up to 12 different burrows at once in the same area.
They use their burrows to shelter from the heat in the day, and as a way to escape from predators. They don’t like straying far from their burrows when foraging at night in case a predator appears. They will dig a new burrow every couple of weeks, leaving the old burrows for other species to use.
This habit makes them an ecosystem engineer.
Female LAGOTi can breed all year round and give birth to one or two offspring at a time, and very occasionally three. The young are born tiny and hairless, like most marsupials, and crawl up to their mother’s backwards-facing pouch. The pouch faces backwards so that no sand can get in when the mother is busy digging burrows.
The young will stay in the pouch until they are about 80 days old, when they will begin foraging by themselves. LAGOTi are solitary and the young will eventually move on to make new territories of their own.
Why is the Greater bilby endangered?
Currently, the LAGOTi population is down to less than 10,000 individuals. This is largely due to one of the dangers in the Ultimate Ranger Gameplay: Invasive Species (predation by feral cats and foxes).
Competition for food and habitat from introduced rabbits, as well as livestock crushing burrows, has also severely affected LAGOTi populations and continues to do so.
LAGOTi used to roam the arid regions of Australia, present across up to 70% of the continent – from west of the Great Dividing Range and south of the tropics all the way to the West Australian coast. Now they are restricted to the Tanami Desert in the north of Western Australia. There are several reintroduction projects aiming to increase populations of LAGOTi in areas where feral animals are not present.
ANiMOZ Rangers can help wild LAGOTi by keeping cats indoors, choosing to support reintroduction projects, and raising awareness of this special Aussie animal.