Bilby as Commonwealth Games mascot?

By AAP with Hsin-Yi Lo August 13, 2013
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Mascot status at a sporting event would be a boon for the bilby, say conservationists.

KANGAROOS, KOOKABURRAS AND echidnas have all achieved mascot-status at sporting events, and now conservationists want the bilby to step into the limelight.

A bid has been put forward by the Save the Bilby Fund for the vulnerable marsupial to become the face of the 2018 Commonwealth Games being held on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Frank Manthey, co-founder of the fund, says the bilby will benefit from the same notoriety enjoyed by the likes of Matilda the Kangaroo, mascot of the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.

“It’s such an iconic species that I believe we can use its popularity,” Frank says. “We’ve got a captive breeding program [for the bilby] at Dreamworld. When people do come to the Gold Coast, it’ll attract them to these other things.”

Mascot for 2018 Commonwealth Games

Organisers of the 2018 Commonwealth Games say they haven’t yet designed mascots, but the public is welcome to offer ideas before a final decision is reached.

“The public will be engaged in the design, number and naming of the mascots, however precise detail of this engagement is yet to be considered and developed into the project plan,” said a spokesperson for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation.

Last month, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd presented a bilby plush toy as a gift to Prince George, the son of Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.

“The people in London are now saying, `What the hell is a bilby?’,” Frank says. “But now they can go online and see what a wonderful, beautiful animal it is.”

Bilby populations in Australia

The greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis), which lives in desert grasslands in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, is listed as vulnerable nationally.

Bilby populations once inhabited 70 per cent of Australia’s mainland, but these have died out in the south-eastern states due to introduced species such as foxes, feral cats and rabbits.

There have been numerous efforts in recent years to raise public awareness about the elusive marsupial. The Save the Bilby Fund has sold chocolate bilbies during Easter in Australia since 1999, and also supported a project in Currawinga National Park, Queensland, to recover bilby populations.