The Adorable Chocolate Animal Australians Use To Celebrate Easter

In Australian aboriginal stories, bilbies, a long-nosed rabbit-like marsupial, burrowed into the ground after having a spat with a loved one (via Kullillaart). In another tale, a bilby tunneled through the entire continent after stealing pearl shells from a lake, a la Oceans 11 (via WWF). In modern Australia, bilbies are an endangered species, but they've been living on the island for over 15 million years, according to Mojo. Apart from serving as mythological hideouts and a refuge for jewel thieves, their burrows also serve as safe havens for around 45 species, according to research published in National Geographic.

So, if you're in Australia, forget about the Easter Bunny. In 1968, 9-year-old Rose-Marie Dusting wrote "Billy The Aussie Easter Bilby," a story that became a book, which started a movement (via NPR). Every year since 1991, Australians have been able to buy chocolate Easter Bilbies instead of Easter Bunnies, and contribute to the animal's survival.

Buying an Easter Bilby helps preserve the ecosystem

This year, according to the Save The Bilby Fund, Australian customers can buy their Easter Bilbies at Big W, Target, Myer, David Jones, and IGA (via Facebook). Additionally, the bilby chocolates used to be easier to find when Cadbury produced them. However, Cadbury stopped making Easter Bilbies in 2018, supposedly due to low demand. When they did, the Save the Bilby Fund collected 10,000 signatures in protest. The organization's CEO, Kevin Bradley, told Australian Geographic that sales for Pink Lady, the official Easter Bilby produced by the fund, were consistently rising. Unfortunately, Cadbury refused to back down, and the Save The Bilby Fund lost the $10,000 AUD that Cadbury used to donate.

That must have hurt. According to what biologist Emily Miller told NPR, money raised from the sale of chocolate Easter Bilbies makes a huge difference. It "goes a long way to helping pay for the construction of predator-proof fencing, captive breeding, and labor-intensive monitoring," she explained. And zoologist Stuart Dawson told National Geographic that the possible extinction of the species would put others at risk. "If you lose the micro-habitats that bilbies provide, other species in the ecosystem become more susceptible to predators, temperature extremes, and other forces," Dawson shared.

As for Australians who continue to seek out the easter chocolate in bilby form? They're directly contributing to an awareness campaign, pushing Australia into "taking greater action to protect [the species]," according to Australia's Threatened Species Commissioner Sally Box.