Monday, December 6, 2010

Flying Foxes Again 7/12/10

Flying Foxes

A colony of flying-foxes has set up camp in Nambucca Heads’ Gordon Park, much to the chagrin of those living close by. The most likely explanation for the new guests was simply their seasonal hunt for food, National Parks spokesman Lawrence Orel said. Flying foxes have been known to travel hundreds of kilometres to find food, usually native tree nectar or rainforest fruits. “Flying foxes do tend to move around, they travel up and down the coast following the flowering of native species of plants,” Mr Orel said. Sometimes a camp would be forced to relocate if a location they had previously roosted in was destoryed. Flying foxes formed two kinds of camps: a ‘maternity’ camp, which was established and permanent, and a temporary camp, which existed only while there was a plentiful supply of food, Mr Orel said. Gordon Park was mostly likely a temporary camp, due to the small number of bats there. But there was every chance Nambucca would remain a regular site for flying-fox visitors in years to come. They were known to develop an affinity for certain camps, and would return to the same trees anually. Nothing could be done about the mess, noise and smell created by the camp, because flying foxes and their camps were protected under NSW legislation, Mr Orel said. Those in the neighbourhood must simply wait until the food supply ran out, and the flying foxes moved further afield. *Guardian News

Charters Towers residents under siege from a colony of bats are also faced with a plague of blood-sucking mites. Thousands of bats are roosting in Lissner Park as Charters Towers Regional Council remains locked in battle with the State Government over its plan to muster them away from the area using a helicopter. Residents say the creatures are noisy and disease-ridden, have destroyed the park with their droppings and created a foul stench in the area. The bats have also been blamed for bringing swarms of a small unidentified insect, described as similar to a tick, that latches on to skin to feed on blood. Mayor Cr Ben Calcott said the mites were an ongoing concern. In previous years, some workers had been taken to hospital to have the insects removed, he said. ''The mites adhere to their skin like ticks,'' he said. 'If you attend the park you run the risk of these mites adhering to you. They're an insect-type thing with legs so they're fairly mobile bloodsuckers.''

Cr Calcott said the mites were living on the bats and residents were fearful they could spread disease. 'We know a very small number of bats have lyssavirus and or hendra virus or melaka virus,'' he said. However, the Department of Environment and Resource Management said it had not received any complaints relating to mites. ''Further, Queensland Health advises bat mites do not carry any diseases that can be transmitted to humans,'' a spokeswoman said. The department has refused to grant permission for council to use a helicopter to muster the bats into a new habitat, away from the township, as there was no guarantee the bats would not be harmed. More than 2000 people have signed a petition for the bats' removal. Politicians and business leaders plan to hold a public rally on Saturday. The spokeswoman said the department would consider any application from council for a damage mitigation permit to disperse the flying foxes, as long as the methods proposed were humane and did not impact public safety.

''The minister (Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Kate Jones) has written to council urging them to work with the department on long-term strategies to manage the impacts of flying foxes in Charters Towers, as the migratory animals travel to the area every year before moving on, once food sources, such as flowering trees, are depleted.'' Cr Calcott said council was in discussions with a Melbourne scientist about its proposal, which it would re-submit following her input. ''We're sticking to our guns to muster them out of town with a helicopter,'' he said. The rally will start from Charters Towers Hospital at 9.30am and head down Gill and Deane streets to Lissner Park. *Townesville Bulletin

About 500 people protested over the weekend against the Queensland Government's refusal to relocate a colony of flying foxes from a park at Charters Towers, south-west of Townsville. Sustainability Minister Kate Jones says she is prepared to hold further talks about how to handle thousands of the noisy mammals, that have inhabited Lissner Park in the town for almost a decade. Charters Towers Mayor Ben Callcott says all previous relocation attempts either have not worked or have not been allowed by the Government. "I think [Premier Anna Bligh's] on the skids anyway but that's beside the point," he said. "What I hope is that the LNP government has the maturity to do something about it because that's what we need. "People mention guts - it's not a matter of guts. "It's a matter of being able to think and reason and have the maturity to actually plough through a problem and do something about it." Councillor Callcott says locals are growing more frustrated by the day. "This is the first showing of strength from the town and that's a good thing," he said. "If they see that there is solidarity out there maybe they'll think again, but we have been told by a member from DERM [the Department of Environment and Resource Management] that we're right on the cusp of a breakthrough, so who knows then?" *ABC

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