Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Flying Foxes 10/8/11

Flying Foxes

A bat expert has blamed sloppy horse management for a number of Hendra outbreaks. Twelve horses have died in Hendra outbreaks across Queensland and NSW in recent weeks, prompting calls from political leaders and the community for bats to be culled. Bats are believed to transmit the virus through body secretions to horses, which can in turn infect humans. Dozens of people who came into contact with the sick horses are being monitored and will undergo three rounds of blood tests over 21 days before they can be cleared of contracting it. WWF bat expert Dr Martin Taylor said horse owners needed to heed better hygiene and horse management. "I think sloppy horse management [is to blame]," Dr Taylor said. "Horses are the animals that transmit the virus to humans, it's not bats. "Nobody is calling for a mass culling of horses are they? "The solution to rare diseases like this is good hygiene. "The bubonic plague was defeated by good hygiene." Horse owners are advised not to leave horses, food and water troughs near trees inhabited by bats.

Meanwhile, wildlife ecologist Dr Chris Tidemann has challenged the notion that bat numbers are in decline and should be protected. The grey-headed bat is listed as vulnerable to extinction under Commonwealth law and, in Queensland, it's illegal to kill any bat species as they are protected. "Over the last few years, there's been a steady increase in the presence of grey-headed flying foxes all over the place," he told ABC Online today. "Animals are not just camping [in new places] but dropping young [there]. "That's been happening all over the place, and that's a sign of an expanding population." But Dr Taylor said it would be devastating to Australia's rainforests to lift protections for bats. "Bats are very critical pollinators and food disperses, that's why they are so important to keeping our forests growing and healthy," Dr Taylor said. * AAP

Ed Comment; It was Chris Tideman who was responsible for the planned culling of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens Flying Foxes, but the cull was stopped by community outrage and political pressure. Tideman is an "ecologist" how likes to manage environmental issues by killing wildlife.

The State Government could face legal action for not removing disease-carrying bats from Queensland communities. Kennedy MP Bob Katter will next week announce plans to raise money in communities around Australia to bring legal action against the Government for failing to remove bats in communities including Charters Towers. Should anyone die or fall ill from the Hendra virus or another bat-related disease before the action is launched, Mr Katter plans to launch criminal action against Premier Anna Bligh under section 289 of the Criminal Act 1899 (Qld) for breaching "the duty of persons in charge of dangerous things". In a letter to Ms Bligh last Wednesday, Mr Katter warned he would be calling on groups from across Queensland to come forward and start raising money to force the Government to remove bats from communities. "If a human death or illness arises from the Government's rules laws (sic) and failure to act, such monies raised will be used to pursue whoever's breach of duty of care has resulted in whole, or part, in such human pain and suffering," the letter read. "Without the undertaking of any reasonable action to avoid this danger posed to human life, we intend to hold you, Anna Bligh, personally liable for the death, illness or injury occasioned by the presence of the flying foxes in areas where people live and work in North Queensland."

Mr Katter also sent a letter to Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney on the same day urging him to take a stand on the issue. "As Leader of Opposition we also consider that it is your responsibility to immediately outline to the people of Queensland what your party's position is on this matter. And its intentions with respect to federal LNP's Biodiversity Act, which Act has precipitated the flying fox protection extremes now endangering people throughout Queensland," it stated. The news comes after Liberal National Party members on the weekend passed a resolution to allow councils to move protected bats from communities. Lissner Park in Charters Towers has been home to an increasing flying fox population since 2001. LNP MP for Dalrymple Shane Knuth said his party put people's lives before flying foxes. The whole Charters Towers community wants it resolved," he said. The Townsville Bulletin contacted Ms Bligh's office for comment yesterday but did not get a response before deadline. * Townesville Bulletin

Ed Comment; for those who are concerned or interested in flying foxes, there is a very interesting article here ... http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2011/07/18/3270559.htm


Did You Know? 10/8/11

Did You Know?

There are four species of flying-fox that you are likely to see in Queensland with another two species living in the Torres Strait Islands and third, the bare-backed fruit-bat Dobsonia moluccensis, that only occurs in northern Cape York. There is also a mystery species, the dusky flying-fox Pteropus brunneus that is only known from one specimen taken from Percy Island off the central coast of Queensland in the 1870s. It has never been seen again and is believed to be extinct. The flying-fox family also includes four other closely-related species of bat. These are the blossom-bats (two species) and the tube-nosed bats, one species in Queensland and one from Moa Island in Torres Strait. *

Flying Foxes 10/8/11

Flying Foxes

Residents driven batty by flying foxes have been raided by officials who seized air horns they had used to try to scare the bats away. Officers from the Department of Environment and Resource Management armed with search warrants raided a Gold Coast home yesterday. The long-suffering residents are being warned they face jail and $100,000 fines if they persist in trying to frighten off the flying foxes. The bust shocked and angered residents who accused the State Government of putting "disease-ridden" bats before people and called in lawyers to fight back. The raid came as communities across Queensland grapple with flying fox plagues and the deadly Hendra virus crisis. The raid followed Southport residents going public with their horn-blowing campaign in a desperate bid to rid their neighbourhood of thousands of screeching flying foxes. Robyn Burgess, who lives amid a large bat colony in an exclusive part of the suburb, said she was "dumbfounded" when DERM officials knocked at her door just after 8am yesterday brandishing a search warrant signed by a magistrate.

She and her husband Robert were forced to hand over air horns and a flyer they had made to advise neighbours where to buy the devices. "The officials were actually sitting outside my house when I arrived home from a funeral - they could have left a card but instead they turned up ... with a search warrant looking for 'evidence of the commission of an offence'," she said. The Burgesses and their neighbours resorted to using air horns after "trying everything" to ward off the flying foxes, including firing an air pistol. Mrs Burgess said she had no idea she was breaking the law until it was brought to her attention in a media interview earlier this week. "I was pretty speechless," she said. Mrs Burgess has called in lawyer Bill Potts, who described the raid as ridiculous. "Clearly, these noisy, defecating, Hendra virus and lyssavirus-carrying creatures are not meant to be in suburbia, especially in such large numbers," he said.

"This is Southport we're talking about, for heaven's sake. It's an inner-suburb of the Gold Coast, not somewhere out in the hinterland. The residents have been put in a position where they are powerless but, instead of trying to help them, the Government is threatening them with jail and fines." Potts Lawyers colleague Rob Franklin said the Government had failed to address the problem of bat colonies establishing themselves in the suburbs and the Hendra virus outbreak, responsible for the deaths of 15 horses and a family dog, made a solution even more urgent. "It's about balancing the interests of wildlife protection and public safety and unfortunately, that balance is out of whack at the moment," he said.

DERM last night confirmed a search warrant had been executed on a Southport residence "in relation to recent allegations of sound devices being used to interfere with a flying fox roost". The department's general manager of conservation, strategy and planning Clive Cook, said: "DERM will investigate this matter to determine whether further action is necessary." Robert and Robyn Burgess say they have spent more than $100,000 trying to soundproof their Southport home from the din of thousands of screeching bats. "We've put in commercial windows, insulation and airconditioning but still the noise and the smell persists," Mrs Burgess said. "They arrive about an hour before dawn and dusk every day. Winter's not so bad because they don't fly in until about 4.30am but in summer it can be as early as 2am. "The racket is unbelievable and I wake up every morning to see bats less than a metre from my window."

Mr Burgess likened the cacophony to "closing time at the pub but about a million times louder". "It's so loud it even drowns out the kookaburras," he said. The couple said the smell from the bats was "pungent" and potentially disease-carrying bat droppings were everywhere. "We have three cats and they regularly come in with bat poo in their fur," Mrs Burgess said. "Now there is the worry with Hendra virus, especially now that we know domestic pets can be infected." The Burgesses, who have lived in their Egerton St home for 19 years, say the bats moved in about nine years ago and shattered the peace of their once-tranquil neighbourhood. They contacted the then Environmental Protection Agency which said there was nothing that could be done. "We started using the air horns out of desperation," she said. *Courier Mail

A series of vigilante attacks against bats are being investigated by the RSPCA, including the lighting of fires to "smoke" them out. As the Hendra virus outbreak enters its third month, animal welfare groups are receiving disturbing reports of violence against bat colonies. The attacks have prompted warnings that residents confronting distressed flying foxes risked contracting lyssavirus. One woman, who asked not to be identified, said her family was furious after watching attempts by some locals at Gayndah to move stressed bats out of the township. "I've seen people lighting fires either side of the colony, trying to smoke them out. They shoot off these loud gas guns. I've also watched people walking into the area with big sticks," she said. An investigation has been launched into the death of an endangered grey-headed bat caught on a barbed-wire fence at Northgate in Brisbane's outer north.

Bat Conservation and Rescue Queensland president Louise Saunders said five men had been poking at the bat with sticks. "Its mouth was ripped to shreds and it ripped its wings as it got more entangled." The group also called in environmental officers to an incident at Regents Park in Logan City last weekend. Spokesman for the RSPCA Michael Beatty said inspectors would determine if the Northgate workers had attacked the bat or were trying to rescue it. Anyone bitten or scratched by a bat could be at risk of lyssavirus, he said. Southport residents near Gardiners Creek have tried air horns to drive away a colony but Environment and Resource Management officers warn they risk a 12-month jail term or $100,000 fine by causing stress to bats. * Courier Mail

Hendra Facts

Hendra virus can be transmitted from flying fox to horse, horse to horse and horse to human. While the exact route of transmission is not known, it is thought that horses contract Hendra virus by ingesting material contaminated by infected flying fox body fluids and excretions. There is no evidence of Hendra virus spreading from person to person or from flying fox to human. The scientific information available on the disease is not complete and research continues to learn more about Hendra virus—particularly about how it is transmitted from flying foxes to horses. While Hendra virus is present in flying fox populations, the risk of horses being infected is very low. Horses should be removed from paddocks where flowering/fruiting trees are attracting flying foxes. Horses should be returned only after the trees have stopped flowering/fruiting and the flying foxes have gone. If it is not possible to remove horses from paddocks, try to temporarily remove your horses during times of peak flying fox activity (usually at dusk and during the night). * Biosecurity Queensland

Ed Comment; If we lose the flying foxes, and we well might, the media, and especially the Courier Mail, will have played a leading role through their attempts to demonise these magnificent and important native animals.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New Hendra Outbreak

Flying Foxes

The latest bat-borne Hendra virus outbreak has prompted renewed calls for a cull of flying fox colonies in the state. Scenic Rim Mayor John Brent, whose council takes in the affected area, said the State Government needed to urgently assess ways to protect horses by limiting or moving bat colonies. Cr Brent said the link between the bats and the fatal disease was known. "It's not sufficient to turn our backs on the root cause of the problem," he said. "Governments and their agencies were well aware of the cause of the Hendra virus and proactive action needs to be taken to address that issue where the bats are in some overwhelming numbers." Sunshine Coast horse owner Rebecca Day, who was exposed to Hendra virus last year, backed the call. "I don't believe they (flying foxes) should be protected. I do believe they are a pest and danger, not only to animals but to humans as well, and they should be seen as that," she said. "These are in plague proportions so I really think something needs to be done about it. "I'd definitely support some sort of cull or something to eradicate or move them." *Courier Mail Read more ... http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland

Monday, June 6, 2011

Flying Foxes 7/6/11

Flying Foxes

A colony of bats and other wildlife that call the 3 hectare bushland near the Equine Precinct at Bundall on the Gold Coast home, will soon be evicted. The bushland will be cleared due to a perceived risk of Hendra Virus being passed from the bats to horses. But some believe this action will result in displaced and stressed bats being pushed into nearby backyards. If protracted it could become a major management headache for Gold Coast City Council and be responsible for the deaths of protected native flying-foxes when they are already suffering national population decline through habitat loss and climatic uncertainty. Bat Conservation & Rescue Qld president, Louise Saunders said, “The removal of vegetation and the dispersal of up to 2,000 flying-foxes, including the vulnerable Grey-headed Flying-fox is extremely concerning. Like most urban dispersals elsewhere, the action at Bundall could be a costly and ongoing problem for Council. It is likely that flying-foxes could end up in locations that are more difficult to manage, such as nearby residential backyards or in local colonies that are already causing conflict with residents,” Ms Saunders said.

“We are concerned that the public may get the wrong idea from this dispersal and misinterpret the health risk to humans. Humans cannot get Hendra virus directly from flying-foxes. Sadly, all human cases have been contracted from contact with horses. The method of transmission from bat to horse is still inconclusive”, Louise said. “This is an extreme action against bats when there is such a slight health risk to horses. We were especially surprised that this action would be considered, as a cost effective vaccine to protect horses has been successful in recent trials and is so close to being available to horse owners”. We would like to remind people not to handle flying-foxes. Like any wild animal that is frightened or in pain it could bite or scratch. We have trained and vaccinated volunteers. If anyone finds an injured bat or bats in their backyard during the day, please call our help line on 0488 228 134 or call the RSPCA on 1300 ANIMAL.

The vegetation removal and dispersal of flying-foxes is expected to take place within the next few weeks. Important information: Neither you, nor your pets, can catch diseases from having bats in your backyard or by living near a bat colony. Less than half of one percent of bats may have Australian Bat Lyssavirus, a preventable but potentially deadly disease. It can only be contracted from a deep bite or scratch from a bat. An effective vaccine is available. Our message is please don’t try to help an injured flying-fox, call for help. Any bat found alone through the day needs assistance. Please call for help as soon as possible.
For further information call (07) 3821 2341 B/H only. For rescue assistance call Bat Conservation & Rescue Qld’s rescue helpline on 0488 228 134. Visit our web site to find out more about these amazing mammals: www.bats.org.au Media release, Bat Conservation & Rescue Qld Inc.

A western Queensland family has been told it will have to wait for more than 10,000 flying foxes to finish breeding in their backyard before they can be moved. Barcaldine resident Brett Walsh estimates 12,000 little red flying foxes are living in his and his neighbour's backyards. He says they have been there for 14 weeks and nothing can be done because the females are having babies. Mr Walsh says he and his wife can barely use their garden but the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) seems more concerned about the animals' welfare. "Basically just completely confined to your house," he said. "They have a fact sheet, 'Learning to live with Flying Foxes', and that seems to be the attitude." He says he and his wife are worried about the hendra virus and lyssavirus. "We don't have any horses but there are horses around the town and I'm not sure how that would affect those people," he said. "We are more concerned about the lyssavirus, which can spread direct from bats to humans. "That disease is fatal - we don't want to see any harm to the babies but we just want them gone."

Mr Walsh says he and his wife even considered moving out of the home until the colony moved on. "There is a lot of bat faeces and urine, the smell - you can't do any activities in your yard like gardening or having a barbecue," he said. "Basically, you are completely confined to your house. "We don't want any harm to come to the animals but we want our lifestyle back and our house back." The QPWS says flying foxes are an important part of the ecosystem. QPWS spokesman Michael Devery says it is a matter of waiting until the young are independent before dispersal options can be considered. "If you've got young there and the mothers are dispersed, for example, then the young will just starve to death," he said. "At this point in time it has to go through that cycle of the young being able to be independent and then the animals will move on. "Little reds are nomadic, they don't stay."There is no doubt there is an imposition [but] these animals will finish breeding and they will leave the property."

Mr Devery says there are no horses in the area and other concerns can be managed. "Any known association with hendra [virus] has been through a horse," he said. "I am advised there aren't any horses at or near the property. "There are some discomforts when they are close to people. "If you take some basic precautions, and I guess the biggest concern people have is the health risk, so not get scratched or bitten by an animal and the way to do [that] is obviously not to touch them but ultimately these animals, they will go." *ABC