Humane Society International condemns plans by Cairns Regional Council to attempt the dispersal of an iconic and nationally-important camp of spectacled flying-foxes in the Cairns CBD. The misguided intentions were disappointingly given approval under national environment law late last week with dispersal attempts set to occur in July.

Spectacled flying-foxes are largely restricted to Queensland’s Wet Tropics and were listed as an Endangered species in early 2019 following an HSI nomination and the shocking deaths of around 23,000 of the persecuted mammals during a heat wave in late 2018.

We lost nearly a third of the Australian population of spectacled flying-foxes in awful circumstances less than 18 months ago. Now there are plans to harass a significant portion of survivors out of the very camp they sought shelter in on that horrific day,” said HSI’s Head of Programs Evan Quartermain.

It’s a terrible decision for the future of this ecologically vital species, and an insult to wildlife carers who will no doubt be the ones left to pick up the pieces. We know we need to minimise our impacts on spectacled flying-foxes if they’re to have any chance of avoiding extinction, yet the government has paved the way for them to be actively harmed.

HSI has requested the Statement of Reasons for the Federal Environment Minister’s approval of the dispersal plan, concerned that mounting threats to the species have not been adequately considered.

Any dispersal attempts are also highly unlikely to be successful, with significant public funds set to be wasted on harassing an Endangered species to no effect.

This ill-thought plan is destined to be futile. Time and time again we’ve seen that expensive attempts at dispersal don’t work, but they’re guaranteed to cost locals a large chunk of their Council’s budget,” Mr Quartermain continued.

The Commonwealth’s approval of the dispersal plan raises serious questions about how well our national environment laws protect threatened species. It’s the first major dispersal that has been applied for since spectacled flying-foxes were uplisted to Endangered last year, with the approval suggesting that their increased threat status has offered little additional protection in reality.

The spectacled flying-fox is one of the latest species to be listed as Endangered in Australia but you wouldn’t know it. Even being one of our threatened species fortunate enough to have a Recovery Plan isn’t doing them any good – the proposed action clearly not being in their best interest.”

HSI continues to advocate for stronger environment laws that take politics out of scientific decision making and feature mandatory and binding Recovery Plans. Further details are available in our submission to the independent review of the EPBC Act.

Image: David White

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