The recent extreme heat events along the east coast have taken their toll on wildlife, with flying-foxes being badly affected, particularly pups and juveniles. Rescuers and carers are having to deal with unprecedented numbers of dead or injured animals.
The extreme heat on Tuesday 8 January had a devastating effect on the flying-fox camp at Bomaderry near Nowra on the south coast: a spokesperson for NSW Wildlife Council reported carers having to wade through mounds of dead animals in their efforts to find survivors, with many suffering animals simply out of reach. Rescuers found more than 60 dead babies in one tree alone. Deaths are estimated at approximately 3000.
In Sydney the 40°+ temperatures forecast for Saturday 12 January thankfully did not occur due to cloud cover and flying-foxes locally have not fared too badly, with the exception of a number of deaths at Centennial Park.
On January 12th, north of Sydney, camps along the coast experienced 40+ temperatures but wind changes and storm fronts averted disaster (at North Avoca on the central coast, bats got a cooling spray from a water tanker, courtesy of the local council!)
The widespread high temperatures on 18 January once again caused havoc at Bomaderry. Sydney’s record temperature (45.7c) was bad news for many flying-fox camps with deaths measured in 100s (but not 1000s). North Avoca had help again to cool their camp – this time from Avoca Rural Fire Service. Flying-fox camps in the Hunter were also affected.
Could this be the final straw?
Grey-headed flying-foxes are listed as a threatened species (vulnerable to extinction) at state, federal and international levels. Extreme weather is not the only threat.
- Habitat loss – removal of roosting sites and food trees due to human property development
- Destruction of roosting sites near human residential areas to dispel unwanted camps
- Orchardists in NSW are still being issued with licences to shoot bats (yet funding is available to net their crops)
- Queensland’s LNP government recently re-introduced shooting to protect crops
- Duck shooting is being re-introduced in NSW – how different is an airborne bat from a duck?
- Ongoing dispersal such as Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney
Why do we care?
- Flying-foxes play a vital role as long-range pollinators and dispersers of seeds of many native plants
- Once they are gone, so is the health of our forests
A few flying-fox facts
- Contrary to popular belief, they do not breed quickly; a female flying-fox usually has one young a year
- Flying-foxes are vegetarians and they have exemplary hygiene and spend hours every day grooming
- A very small number do carry Australian Bat Lyssavirus, related to rabies, which is why only trained and vaccinated people should attempt to handle them.
- Flying-foxes are linked to the Hendra Virus, but are not known to transmit it to humans
- Their strong odour is because of chemical signals secreted by the males