NSW Policy and Federal Guidelines fail to protect Avalon’s flying-foxes
Humane Society International (HSI) is highly disappointed by the destruction of a significant amount of canopy utilised by pregnant grey-headed flying-foxes and new mothers and pups at Cannes Reserve in Avalon, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Having been granted licences to harm the threatened species as well as the endangered ecosystem they rely on by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), contractors employed by Pittwater Council ‘pruned’ close to a dozen large cabbage palms immediately after the colony flew out to feed last night. The trees were occupied by bats just minutes before arborists moved in.
These works were originally licenced to be undertaken by August 31, specifically “to avoid impacts on the breeding cycle of the grey-headed-flying-fox.” But after failing to meet the timeframe Pittwater Council applied for a licence extension until December 31, which OEH approved in clear contradiction to the NSW Flying-fox Camp Management Policy which recommends against dispersal of pregnant flying-foxes, before making another licence amendment for the work to be conducted at night so dispersal wasn’t required.
“Cannes Reserve has been the first test of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage’s Flying-fox Camp Management Policy, and the outcome has been a resounding failure. We have the agency charged with the protection and recovery of threatened species in NSW willing to provide licence extensions and amendments outside their own guidelines because of a few noisy residents repeatedly complaining to the Council,” said HSI Senior Program Manager Evan Quartermain.
“At this stage of the breeding season it’s extremely unlikely the flying-foxes will move elsewhere as a result of these ‘management actions’. Many have given birth and are committed to caring for their young in what used to be a stunning piece of habitat. The result of this canopy removal is a more crowded, noisier, and stressed colony, which leads to an increase in abortions and the abandonment of dependent young. Pittwater Council and the Office of Environment and Heritage seem to be satisfied as long as no bats were physically harmed while the trees were being cut, but in this situation the animal welfare impacts begin after the fact,” Mr Quartermain continued.
The grey-headed flying-fox is also listed as a threatened species under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, however the recently released Federal referral guidelines for the management of flying-fox camps disappointingly sets the threshold for requiring a referral so low that the protection the listing offers will only be considered in rare and extreme circumstances.
Mr Quartermain concluded “To add insult to injury, all of the trees destroyed were components of the Coastal Littoral Rainforest Endangered Ecological Community, the primary identified threats to which include habitat removal and loss of canopy integrity. HSI was critical of the NSW Flying-fox Camp Management Policy when it was released; a view reinforced by its implementation falling short at the first test.”