Bat eviction to go ahead in Sydney
Conservation groups have expressed their serious concern following today’s decision by the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett to allow the Botanic Gardens Trust to evict a colony of grey-headed flying-foxes from the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney provided they can meet strict conditions that the Minster has demanded.
“Whilst we welcome the conditions the Federal Environment Minister has placed on the approval, we are disappointed that this eviction has been approved due to the significant negative impacts it will have on a threatened native species” said Alexia Wellbelove of Humane Society International. “An approval of this scale for a period of almost 20 years is highly inappropriate for a threatened native species”.
Grey-headed flying-foxes are listed as threatened under both Federal and State environmental laws. The National recovery plan for the species, currently being prepared by state and federal departments highlights that loss of roosting habitat, such as Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, is a serious threat to the viability of the species.
"Roosting in the Royal Botanic Gardens provides the flying-foxes with easy access to reliable food sources throughout the year which is likely to contribute to how successful it is as a breeding colony" said Nick Edards of Bat Advocacy. "To force to move them to less suitable locations is not consistent with a genuine effort to halt the decline the species has suffered".
Conservation and welfare groups believe that the Trust is ill-equipped to manage the task that they have set themselves. The Botanic Gardens Trust acknowledge in their submission to the Minister Garrett’s department that "it is unknown where the [bats] will relocate to and settle" which may lead to months and possibly years of conflict as the bats are disturbed throughout the city in an attempt to force them to go to a location where they might be allowed to roost peacefully.
“We are very concerned” added Mr Edards “that bats dispersed from the Gardens may set up camps in the backyards of Eastern suburbs residents or will attempt to join camps, which are already a source of conflict with residents such as Kareela in Sydney’s south”.
Managers of other camps in the Sydney region, who have rejected the Trust’s requests to take in some of the bats displaced from the Botanic Gardens are also concerned that their pleas are being ignored.
"The Botanic Gardens have suggested that bats forced out of the Gardens will join local colonies, including the Wolli Creek camp. We've expressed our concerns about this to the Gardens. Dr Entwisle's plans fail to reassure us that the Gardens' actions will not adversely affect the Wolli camp,” says Peter Stevens, Wolli Creek Preservation Society's Bushcare Co-ordinator.
Dispersals at other camps along the east coast of Australia have met with limited success. Flying-foxes have a great affinity for particular colony sites and whilst they might be harassed into vacating an attractive site like the Botanic Gardens as a result of being assaulted by a barrage of noise, it is only a matter of time before they will return to roost there once more.
“Minister Garrett’s decision to allow multi-year disturbance in full knowledge of the threats facing this species is simply a poor conservation and welfare decision” concluded HSI’s Alexia Wellbelove.