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Action Alert - Don't move Flying Foxes      



Sydney, 11 November 2008


Act by Tuesday 18 November 2008

Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) are the latest host to a grey-headed flying-fox camp that has asked Peter Garrett for permission to relocate them elsewhere. Recent research suggests the east coast population of this threatened species is in sharp population decline, so much so that it could be extinct in around 80 years. For this reason, and while we sympathise with the situation at the RBG, HSI believes relocations are too risky for the species' conservation status. HSI appreciates the RBG is taking a non-lethal approach to the problem but relocations still present serious conservation and animal welfare concerns.

Action required:

Write to the Federal Environment Minister and ask that he reject proposals from the Royal Botanic Gardens and others to relocate grey-headed flying-fox colonies because it risks a significant impact to a threatened species in decline. The following are points you can include in your submission ' “ quote EPBC Act Reference Number: 2008/4568:

The grey-headed flying-fox is a species in decline and is listed as vulnerable (to extinction) nationally and internationally.

  • Current research suggests that the decline is so extreme that the species could be extinct in around 80 years unless an effective recovery plan is implemented;
  • It is expected that applications to upgrade the species to the more serious category of ' endangered'  will be made soon.

Flying-foxes are highly nomadic.

  • Any action on a local population, such as the colony in Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, must be seen as having impacts on the entire population.

The application to disperse the flying-foxes from Royal Botanic Gardens is one of three dispersal applications that are currently under review within NSW.

  • Singleton Council and Clarence Valley Council/NSW Department of Education have also applied to disperse colonies under their management. The cumulative impact of these three applications on the whole population has not been assessed.

Botanic Gardens Trust have applied for licenses to disturb the flying-foxes in Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens during May, June and July 2009.

  • Whilst this timing avoids disturbing the bats during the mating or maternity seasons, it will impact females that are in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. There is no scientific data assessing the impact of disturbance on pregnant females in this condition. There exists the risk, as yet unquantified, that the disturbance may increase the rate of spontaneous abortion or foetal re-absorption.

Botanic Gardens Trust have applied for licenses to disturb the flying-foxes for a maximum of 10 minutes every hour from 9am to dusk to make the gardens an unpleasant place to roost (sleep).

  • This protocol is harsher than other protocols that have called for disturbances at dawn and dusk. The levels of stress and/or exhaustion that this may cause have not been quantified.

Botanic Gardens Trust have identified 4 possible sites to which the flying-foxes might relocate.

  • Botanic Gardens Trust acknowledges that the majority of bats in the Gardens forage within 5km of the camp, and almost exclusively in the eastern suburbs;
  • Botanic Gardens Trust notes that ' Previous relocations have demonstrated that flying-foxes often tend to stay close to the original site when disturbed' ;
  • The closest site identified in the proposal, Ku-ring-gai flying-fox reserve in Gordon, is 13kms away from the Botanic Gardens and in the opposite direction from which the bats generally feed;
  • The other four sites are in Sutherland Shire and are 20kms or more away from the Botanic Gardens;
  • Botanic Gardens Trust states that it is ' entirely possible'  that ' Flying-foxes occupy sites other than those selected, and occupation of these new sites creates conflict' . The strategy to manage this outcome will be further disturbance to attempt to move the bats to a location where no conflict exists.

Flying-foxes' role in climate change.

  • Flying-foxes are important seed dispersers and important for healthy forests. Healthy forests are key to regulating our climate, so flying-foxes are our allies in the fight against climate change.

Please send us copies of any responses you receive.

Web: AndreasLustig.com