Re: bats - the answers

Subject: Re: bats - the answers
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2001 11:22:43 +1000

if I can be excused for discussing mammals on birding-aus, can I make a very
brief point about the Melb flying-fox issue.
There is no boom in the population of Grey-headed Flying-fox. In fact the
population number has been falling steadily for decades. That is why the
threatened species scientific advisory committees in both NSW and Vic have
recommended that the species be listed as Vulnerable.

What has changed is the geographic range - contracted southwards alarmingly in
Qld and northern NSW. The other change is the occupation of urban areas by
several species of flying-fox right round northern and eastern Aust, including
Melbourne. These urban colonies tend to be permanent, ie occupied year round by
varying numbers of individuals, rather than seasonal like most or all colonies
in 'natural' veg. This means that damage to veg is constant and there is no time
for trees to recover.

Grey-headed Flying-foxes have always been a component of the fauna of Melbourne,
but not in the numbers that have occupied the area during the past 2 decades.
Nor have they remained year round until about 1987. Clearly, there was a vacant
niche in urban Melbourne for a frugivorous/nectarivorous mammal. This niche was
most likely created by the widespread planting of a wide range of eucalypts,
banksias, melaleucas etc that, together, provide nectar year round. The locally
indigenous flora did not provide this year round resource. The flying-foxes have
taken advantage of that freely available resource in the same manner, and over
the same time period, as Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets have permanently occupied

The only problem is that the flying-foxes chose to camp in the botanical gardens
which are one of Melbourne's icons. The only solution to the problem is to
establish an alternative camp at a site that is acceptable to the people of Melb
and convince the flying-foxes to use that camp instead of the botanic gardens -
there is no way we can prevent the animals from coming to Melb whenever they
choose to. This is what the Dept of Natural Resources and Environment is now
working towards.

Peter Menkhorst

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