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The arrows point to rows of barbed wire fencing off the railway corridor at the back of Tillman Park Sydenham & in the background, at Frazer Park Marrickville. The large railway corridor here & the 2 parks have been identified as high biodiversity value

Earlier this week I watched a program on Channel 6 about a flying fox rehabilitation centre.  Unfortunately, I did not catch their name.  As with most programs on Channel 6, this was a simple documentary, the camera fixed on a woman who spoke about the work of the rehab centre with shots of the bats she was talking about.  The scene was a large aviary where flying foxes of all ages were being rehabilitated for release back into the wild.  A few bats had been so badly injured that they will remain at the rehab centre for life & are used as educational bats when speaking to groups.  They can’t fly.  One of these bats was at the Eco Festival on the Cooks River last year.

Some facts about flying foxes discussed on this program –

  • Flying foxes are playful, cheeky creatures that enjoy interacting with humans when in care.
  • They have close friendships with each other. Two bats that were tagged with consecutive numbers before release found themselves coming back into care a couple of years later showing that they had remained together since their release.
  • Staff members have come to work to find an injured bat waiting outside the aviary.  Checking their tags they found the bats, for there have been a few, knew where to come if they were injured.  Now that is smart.
  • Bats are not just flying around indiscriminately with a few thousand others. They are families, pairs & groups of friends who sleep together & forage for food together during the night.

The good thing is the new tree planted in Tillman Park recently. The bad thing is the barbed wire along the goods line. Two sides of Tillman Park has barbed wire fencing

What made me decide to write a post about this program was that the woman being interviewed said there were 2 main reasons why flying foxes get injured.  The first is barbed wire, which is often placed near a Eucalyptus or Bottle Brush tree. The bats come to feed on the flower nectar, don’t see the barbed wire & tear their wings.  Many bats are still alive when you see them tangled in barbed wire. They stay still because they are in pain. People who see them think they are dead & the bat ends up suffering a long, slow & painful death.  So if you see a flying fox in this condition, it is well worth ringing a wildlife rescue organization that will remove the bat if it is dead & rescue it if it is still alive.  Barbed wire injuries often mean that a bat cannot fly again & many are so badly injured that they need to be euthanized.

How I hate barbed wire & razor wire.  I’ve seen more of the stuff in Sydenham seeming to protect something belonging to Railcorp.  The back fence at Tillman Reserve & the border of the goods line is barbed wire as well.  Tillman Park & this section of Railcorp land is viewed as a prime biodiversity corridor so hopefully Marrickville Council will convince Railcorp to remove the barbed wire in these areas.

It’s crazy to plant to increase biodiversity & then surround the area with an invisible obstacle course that that has the high potential of severely injuring the very wildlife you are encouraging.  People know how to get through or over barbed wire & razor wire anyway so it is entirely unnecessary.

Even the Department of Corrective Services is removing barbed wire from the prison walls & is using slip-rollers instead. If the prisons can remove barbed & razor wire, surely the Council, Railcorp & other organizations around the locality can do the same.  How long before a kid gets hurt?

The second main cause of injury is fruit tree netting because people sling the net loosely over the tree. Loose netting means that bats as well as birds are very likely to become entangled in the net.  Netting causes deep wounds & severe burns to the skin of a bat. A tangled, trapped bat or a bird is also very difficult to get out of the netting.  A homeowner does not want to find a terrified & injured bat wrapped in netting high up in a fruit tree because trying to remove a wild animal is likely to cause injury to the person.  It is best to call a trained wildlife rescuer who has also been vaccinated against any bat-related viruses.

If you have fruit trees, you can still net them. However, you need to pull the netting tight around & under the canopy so that a bird or a bat will bounce off it if they land on the tree.  Sydney Bats have a document that explains how to net your fruit trees with wildlife in mind. – http://www.sydneybats.org.au/cms/index.php?urban

If you see an injured bat, call –

  • Sydney Wildlife (02) 9413 4300 or
  • WIRES (Wildlife Information & Rescue Service) (02) 8977 3333
  • Outside Sydney contact your local wildlife organization.
  • Your local Vet will also know whom to contact.

I made a couple of short YouTube videos of flying foxes in the local area –

Razor wire at Tempe Bus Depot

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Cooks River at dusk - the black marks in the sky are the bats leaving their home in Wolli Creek - I am told it is a spectacular sight to see them leave from the vantage point of just outside the park

Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens Trust have been concerned about a large colony of bats who have made their home in the Gardens for years.  The bats are grey-headed flying foxes, which are listed as a threatened species in Australia.  The Trust say the bats are destroying trees in ‘Palm Grove’ & it’s true, they are denuding the trees.

Federal MP Peter Garrett is about to decide whether to allow the Trust to get rid of the bats (they say humanely) by causing a noise, which the bats are unable to tolerate, hoping they will move & find another home.  There are many problems with this.

  • They intend to do this in the breeding season when many of the mothers are pregnant.  The dispersal techniques of noise, harassment & sleep deprivation result in many miscarriages.
  • The bats become disorientated & exhausted (as we all would) during this intervention.  As a result there are many injuries.
  • It’s cruel & at the risk of sounding like a zealot, all about man’s domination over animals.  The gardens are 75 acres in size.  Yes, they are destroying a certain amount of trees on the south side of the gardens, but there are a lot of other trees & the grove can be replaced.
  • The Trust says the bats will find another home, but on the small chance they do, this itself will likely result in problems.  They may try to join other colonies, which will make other areas overburdened with bats.
  • They may stay in the gardens moving to other trees they have so far left alone.
  • They are disliked in residential areas for good reasons.  If they relocate to these areas, it is likely residents will campaign to get rid of them or take the matter into their own hands.  It’s moving a ‘problem’ to another area & another community.

I was at the NSW Art Gallery at dusk last week. It is a truly beautiful & special sight to watch the bats quietly fly over the Domain as they go off to search for food during the night.  It is also a very good thing for tourism.  Many countries do not have such nature in the CBD.  The tourists & I stood for a long time watching them & we all loved the sight.  The Trust & the City of Sydney should be promoting the bats as a tourism highlight.

I trust WIRES &, when they say there will be a problem with the dispersal intervention, I believe it.  There are a lot of other organisations who joined with WIRES opposing the bat dispersion. If there wasn’t a significant & valid reason, I do not think these organisations would take on the Royal Botanic Gardens Trust.

I found this birds nest in Dulwich Hill last week - they used all sorts of material to make it - they even have 3 little doonas for 3 little eggs

Personally I think we humans are constantly taking away habitat from wildlife.  We control ‘our’ environment at the cost of other living beings & many times we do this as our ‘given right.’

The bats are usually nomadic, seeking warm places.  Experts believe the Heat Island Effect caused by our love & prolific use of cement & paved surfaces has improved conditions for the bats in Sydney so they have stayed.  We have also had a long & protracted drought so why would the bats move on as they usually do when they know there is limited food & water outside the city?  They stay where there is food & water & once the drought is well & truly over, some of them may return to their nomadic lifestyle.  We just need to be patient.

I think the bats should be allowed to stay.  Although there are negatives, there are just as many positives, not the least these bats being a threatened species.  It is not as simple as the Trust makes out.  Trees benefit humans in many ways, but they are the homes for birds & animals.  Sometimes we have to give over areas & tree assets to them even if only out of fairness & compassion.

You can read a media release from the Humane Society, WIRES, Bat Advocacy & WWF written yesterday –  Eviction_of_Flying_Foxes

If you want to join the voices supporting the bats’ right to remain in the Royal Botanic Gardens, you can write to Peter Garrett MP via his online contact page – http://www.aph.gov.au/house/members/memfeedback.asp?id=HV4 or via his e-mail – mailto:Peter.Garrett.MP@aph.gov.au

You can read about them on the Royal Botanic Gardens Trust web-site – http://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/welcome_to_bgt/royal_botanic_gardens/garden_features/wildlife/flying-foxes Today’s news about the bats on ABC News – http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/03/24/2854578.htm?section=justin

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