this was passed on by naturalist Ian Fraser & repeats a warning to horse owners
Bats set new records in Nation’s capital Media release – issued to day at 9:30am
A colony of Grey-headed Flying foxes residing in Canberra’s Commonwealth Park this winter have set new records and completely overturned previous understandings about the species according to bat experts.
“Something very odd has happened and we have no idea why,” said local bat expert, Michael Pennay who is President of the Australasian Bat Society.
“This is the first time on record that grey-headed flying foxes have spent an entire winter in Canberra making this Australia’s coldest flying fox camp used all year round and it’s in the centre of the nation’s capital.
“The Grey-headed flying fox is normally a coastal species that spends its winters in much milder climates. Historically it has been an occasional visitor to Canberra but over the last five years or so the bats have set up a temporary camp in Commonwealth Park during summer and autumn.
“This year there has been a big change, the bats have decided to stay over winter for the first time in a very cold climate where they’ve had to endure temperatures as low as -5 degrees and more than 40 frosty nights this winter.
“Until now bat scientists have believed they could not tolerate such low temperatures so they’d return to the coast for winter but this year they have totally demolished that theory. It could be related to climate or food. We really don’t know” he said.
“What we do know is that there have been huge movements recently in the distribution of flying foxes across eastern Australia. Earlier this year Black flying foxes, a tropical species, were found for the first time ever in Melbourne so something unusual is happening in the bat world.
Mr Pennay is seeking help from Canberra residents in gathering information that might help explain just why the bats have stayed.
“I would really like to hear from people in the Canberra region who have seen what the flying foxes are feeding on at night so we can work out what’s kept them here over winter,” Mr Pennay said.
“Normally they feed on flowering eucalypts and occasionally on fruit and we’re assuming this to be the case but we’d love to find out more details.”
The colony at Commonwealth Park has grown over the past five years from less than one hundred to several thousand at its peak in February this year, about 500 have stayed over winter.
“In some areas the bats have been seen as a bit of a nuisance because of the noise, smell and perceived disease risks” said Mr Pennay
“But Canberrans, to their credit, have been very welcoming and tolerant of the bats, which is great because the bats actually fill a very important pollination and seed dispersal role in our native forests.
“It’s a new thing for us, but there are a few small things Canberrans can do to adjust to living with flying foxes, like being careful in the way we net fruit trees so we don’t injure bats, preventing horses from browsing under trees the bats are feeding in to minimise the risk of Hendra transmission.
“If you do come across an injured bat don’t try and handle it, call a wildlife rescue organisation such as the RSPCA,” Mr Pennay said.
Mr Pennay can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Images of the bats can be accessed from the folder “Media release” at http://www.flickr.com/photos/37577693@N04/sets/72157624845057080/
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW)
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)
PO Box 733
11 Farrer Place
Queanbeyan NSW 2620