A visit to Australia at the end of 2014 gave an opportunity to update the status of the flying-foxes in Bairnsdale, Victoria. During a trip to Cairns, Northern Queensland we saw flying-foxes near downtown Cairns. Though thousands of miles apart both these cities are experiencing the same concerns with the large bats.
Flying-foxes in Cairns, Queensland
On a walk to the popular Esplanade beach in Cairns we heard the bats well before we saw them. We were surprised by the large number of bats although they are normal in this part of the tropics. There were bat-occupied trees (mango or ficus) and 3 or 4 larger trees where the bats nested during the day and at night it was interesting to watch them fly off.
Tree Removal May Harm Flying-foxes
Interestingly, Cairns city council claimed to have successfully dispersed the flying foxes, with the removal of several large trees in downtown Cairns in May 2014 . Further research indicates that the council may be libel for harm to the bats which are protected in Australia. When we stayed there in November 2014 the large bats were very visible and active.
The Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-foxes are protected under the
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
as they play a vital role in keeping our ecosystems in good health
~ Australian Government Dept of Environment
In this part of Australia, these giant creatures live in huge colonies of up to 100,000. When they take flight at night their numbers can blacken the sky. The bats are an added concern for fruit growers in the area who have no defense against the protected fruit bats. The discussion continues on how to control the flying-fox numbers.
Flying-foxes in Bairnsdale, Victoria
An update on the Bairnsdale, Victoria flying-foxes we met several years ago. It was clear that the bats were still nesting along the Mitchell River as there were several large trees where the bats nest during the day. It is difficult to know but it seemed as though there were many more bats than our last visit two years ago perhaps due to bats migrating because of the increasing northern temperatures.
Bats Winter over
My family informs me that this may be the first winter that the bats have stayed over instead of flying north. There is a 137 page document outlining what the local authorities plan to do with the flying foxes who are becoming more and more of a concern. Many other species, not only in Australia but elsewhere, are "on the move" due to lack of habitat and food, wildfires, lack of water and rising temperatures. See "A Growing Need for Species to Adapt to a Changing World"
Conclusion (from the report on Flying fox control methods):
The challenge to address flying fox damage in orchards is an ongoing one. A
significant amount of research both in Australia and overseas
at this stage has failed
to identify a deterrent method that has achieved
the success rate of full canopy netting.
- As tourism is a major industry in Queensland, and in Australia, the local authorities and businesses certainly have a controversial dilemma. One of the few positive suggestions made was to include the bats as a tourist attraction, similar to that of crocodiles.
Links & References
- Australian Government Dept of Environment flying fox distribution map
- In Australia Flying fox versus fruit growers
- Flying foxes in Cairns the other side of the story
- East Gippsland Shire Council in Victoria, Australia management plan for the Grey headed flying fox
- "Flying fox solution Moves Another Step Closer" report from D. Chester, MP East Gippsland, July 2014