south easterOpera Houses

A similarrelocation strategy was used by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne in 2003 tomove 30,000 flying foxes and proved successful, according to the Trust.

It is believed the species continues to suffer a population decline dueto large-scale loss of forest habitat and food resources, as well as culling byhumans.

Itsnot the first time large numbers of flying foxes have colonized the Royal Botanic Garden.

The Trustargues the colony of some 22,000 flying foxes is destroying historic trees and plants. So r, it says, they have killed 30palms and 28 mature trees – including a rare, 153-year-old Kauri Pine — anddamaged 300 more.

Alexia Wellbelove of Humane Society International, which financed Bat Advocacys bid, says the flying foxes are already in a poor state dueto a food shortage caused by loss of natural habitat – and exacerbatedby the recent Queensland floods.

The Trustsays the latest relocation is expected to take two to four weeks.

They are commonly found in Queensland, NSW and Victoria. Their natural habitat is forests, woodlands and intertidal mangroves.

Additional stress could cause the flying foxes to miscarry their youngand possibly miss out on up to two breeding seasons, she says.

We will be conducting extensive monitoring of theflying foxes movements and have procedures in place in an effort to prevent themfrom settling in unacceptable locations, Dr. Summerell says. Were conducting the mostextensive scientific research study ever on this threatened species,contributing to conservation work to protect them.

They tend to live in colonies during the day and fly up to 30 kilometers at night to forage on fruit and blossom.

Ku-ring-gai BatConservation Society chairwoman, Nancy Pallin, says she is also concerned thatthe flying foxes may set up camps in the backyards of eastern suburbsresidents, or join camps which are already overrun.

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Gray-headedflying foxes are a protected native species endemic to Australia and listed asvulnerable under both NSW and Commonwealth legislation.Otherwiseknown as fruit bats, they weigh up to one kilogram and have a wingspan of about onemeter.

In May, the flying foxes will be blasted with the recorded sounds of chainsaws and tractors for 10 minutes every hour. Thegoal: to disruptsouth eastern health trust the bats sleep and force them to move away from their harbor-side nests to alternative daytime roosts.

We cannot justkeep movinsouth easterOpera Housesg them out of locations they have chosen unless we as a society arewilling to put substantial effort into providing alternatives, Pallin says. The Trust is not any effort to provide the animalswith alternative roosting sites.

The relocation is plannedto be a win-win for the flying foxes and the Royal Botanic Garden, says the Trustecutive director, Dr. Brett Summerell.

But some animalwelre groups argue the Trusts method of shifting the animalsis cruel.

Royal Botanic Garden, Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney, +61 (0)2 9231 8111 or weekends +61 (0)2 9231 8125, www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au

Despite alast-ditch legal bid from animal welre groups to allow the flying foxes to roost in peace, theFederal Court recently upheld the federal governments approval for the RoyalBotanic Gardens & DomainTrust to begin evicting the bats.

south easterOpera Houses,But soon theendangered species — also known as fruit bats — will no longer be able to call the Opera Houses 30-hectare back garden home.

The courts approval comes with conditions: the operation must be supervised by anindependent group of observers, and it can only be carried out until July to avoidinterrupting the bats mating season.

If the batsare successfully dispersed and il to find suitable replacement habitat sitesto breed, then there will be a significant impact on future generations offlying foxes, she says.

Dr. Summerellinsists the flying foxes will relocate to miliar areas away from homes -including one existing camp atKu-ring-gai Flying-fox Reserve. Residents and rmers will not be affected, hesays.

TheGarden is open daily, and entry is free — except for theTropical Centre (open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Themost recent influx began in the early 1990s. At that time, the Trust used noisedisturbance to reduce the numbers. When these measures were halted in 2000,the flying fox numbers continued to increase until they peaked at 22,000 lastyear.

If the flying foxesare not relocated, it warns, more heritage trees and palms would be threatenedand the area may be closed down for health and safety reasons.

Often foundroosting together, hanging upside down by one foot from outstretched tree branches, the furry, gray-headed flying foxes are a popular attraction at SydneysRoyal Botanic Garden.

Sincethe garden was established in 1816, significant numbers have been recorded atvarious times in its history. In the past, flying foxes were culled -something which would not be considered today because of their vulnerable status under both New South Wales and Commonwealthlegislation.

Denyingaccess to a place that is known to have excellent qualities for raising youngwhen you are dealing with a species in decline doesnt seem to makeconservation sense, says Storm Stanford, of animal welre group Bat Advocacy, which fought to halt the project.

Spot the foot tag: Wildlife officer at the gardens, John Martin, releases a flying fox after tagging.

The dispersalwill also result in the loss of a critical roosting and breeding habitat, theysay.

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