Valley Watch member Linda Wright has started a petition to NSW Minister for the Environment Rob Stokes calling on him to promote work towards the satisfactory co-existence of humans with lying Foxes in all roosts in NSW, including those of the nationally endangered Grey-headed Flying Fox. The link to the petition is at the bottom of this post.
Linda outlines her case about the importance of flying foxes below.
Flying-foxes are regarded as a keystone species in our forests because they spread seeds and pollinate blossoms over larger areas than do birds and insects. Forest health depends upon Flying-foxes. Many trees, particularly commercial hardwoods, produce their nectar specifically atnight, when Flying-foxes are at work, and would not survive without them.
As human population expands further and further into Flying-fox habitat and destroys more and more of it, there is greater contact. The media spreads hysterical misinformation. People do not realize that not only are these animals indispensable to our forests, but they are also intelligent, highly social, clean and attractive.
Health professionals, including from NSW Health, tell us that the health risk posed by them is minimal, given sensible human behaviour - if we simply don't touch bats, we cannot become ill from them.
Attempts to move roosts ('dispersals') are expensive, and often the animals move to a less favourable location. In most cases the animals continually return, and repeated disturbance of them incurs more expense and inconvenience to local people. Disturbances are also cruel as they result in high-level stress for animals that would normally be asleep, which may be pregnant, or have dependent young. They can cause mass loss of unborn babies, and of young due to separation from their mothers.
As Flying-foxes only have one young per year, their populations are slow to recover from losses through persecution, droughts, and mass mortalities from heat stress. Disturbances are no way to recover a threatened species!
Culling is never an option because the animals are migratory. If local animals are removed others will simply take their place. Furthermore it is cruel. No method ensures a quick clean death. Nor is the 'training' of the animals in a roost a viable option due to the transitory habits of Flying-foxes - it would be impossible for 'training' to be done on all the animals that may visit a roost at different times.
The great need is for better public education and management of roosts without attempting to move them. We need to take responsibility for protecting Flying-foxes and their habitats and to make sure there are enough food and roost sites.
Good management of existing roosts includes providing buffers to residential areas and educating people about these animals. We need to accept the advice of our health professionals, to understand the importance of Flying-foxes to our natural landscape, and to find it in ourselves to live alongside wildlife as best we can.
- Linda Wright