Round-the-world sailor Jessica Watson with the young bilby, also named Jessica. Jessica the bilby was an unexpected arrival at the Ipswich Nature Centre.
Round-the-world sailor Jessica Watson with the young bilby, also named Jessica. Jessica the bilby was an unexpected arrival at the Ipswich Nature Centre. Rob Williams

City's bilbies not too old for love

WHEN Ipswich Nature Centre staff put elderly bilbies Judy and Bart together they thought the pair would get along well.

They underestimated just how well though.

Seven-year-old Judy had spent three mating seasons at the Dreamworld breeding project to save the endangered species, but her efforts proved fruitless and she was declared “too old” to become pregnant.

But less than two weeks after moving in with the dashing Bart, Ipswich Nature Centre curator Martin Page noticed a small lump in Judy’s pouch.

“I did a pouch check and could feel a tiny lump,” Mr Page said.

“We weren’t expecting it at all.

“We thought there’s no way these guys are going to breed; they’re past their used-by date. But they surprised us all.”

The baby bilby, now eight months old and ready to start breeding herself, has been named Jessica after teen solo sailor and Young Australian of the Year Jessica Watson.

Ms Watson was at the Ipswich Nature Centre yesterday for the official naming ceremony.

“I am so very honoured at the bilby being named after me, it’s just wonderful,” Ms Watson said.

Save the Bilby Fund co-founder Frank Manthey said he had approached Ms Watson and her manager about naming the new bilby and they were both thrilled at the prospect.

“We had a name-the-bilby competition over the school holidays,” Mr Manthey said.

“The winner was 10-year-old Anthony Bell, of Leichhardt, who has won a large bilby toy and breakfast for two adults and two children at the Queens Park Café.”

A patron to the Save the Bilby Fund, Dawn Fraser also attended the ceremony.

Dreamworld Life Sciences general manager Alan Mucci said he was thrilled to be taking little Jessica back to the breeding program. “Having a female introduces a new blood line to the program, which is very positive,” Mr Mucci said.

Mayor Paul Pisasale said it was a pleasure to have another memory of Ms Watson’s fantastic feat perpetuated in Ipswich.



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