Students are wildlife warriors

A Year 2 class at Dubbo Public School, with the help of their fellow peers and teachers have raised $935 for the bilby breeding sanctuary at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Development of the bilby breeding sanctuary began a couple of months ago.

The bilbies won’t be released into the sanctuary until next year while Keepers currently ensure it is free from predators.

Keeper Steve Kleinig said the school did an excellent job fundraising for the bilbies and would help establish their population in the 300 acre sanctuary and provide them with a safe place to live.

The funds will help the Zoo purchase safety monitoring equipment, such as cameras. “As it’s important to ensure we don’t have any nasty animals like foxes and cats in the sanctuary,” he said.

The money will also go towards building a fence for the sanctuary so feral animals can’t get in. Mr Kleinig said feral cats and foxes are a big part of why there aren’t many bilbies in the wild.

“That’s why we’ve got to make this safe place for them...The bilbies will be able to live in the sanctuary like they would in the wild,” he said.

Mr Kleinig said there are no more bilbies in the local area.

“They’ve actually gone extinct in all of New South Wales so that’s why we want to breed up some numbers, but in a sanctuary…,” he said.

Mr Kleinig said the long-term plan was to relocate and release some of the bilbies into national parks in NSW.

The idea to help the bilbies first began when Dubbo Public School student Ari Dale read about endangered species.

For 10 weeks Ari, his teacher Ms Lana Dess and his fellow classmates in 2D learnt about endangered species through a project based learning program and decided they wanted to do something locally to help.

They took their idea to Dubbo Regional Council and pitched the concept to their Student Representative Council and held a fundraiser.

The whole school was able to raise $1035.

Of that fundraiser $100 went towards Dubbo Public School’s Year 6 graduation and the rest towards the bilby breeding program at the Zoo.

The sanctuary is part of the Wild Deserts project - a partnership between the Office of Environment and Heritage, the University of NSW and Ecological Horizons - in collaboration with Taronga Conservation Society Australia.

The sanctuary has been funded through a major philanthropic donation to the Taronga Foundation.