2. Flying-foxes: background and impacts

2.1
This chapter commences by providing background information about flying-foxes in the eastern states of Australia, including their distribution and ecological importance, and how they are protected under federal and state laws. The increasing incidence of urban roosting of flying-foxes, and the subsequent impacts on human communities and the environment, are then considered.

Flying-foxes in Australia

2.2
Flying-foxes (also known as fruit bats) are non-echolocating, fruit and nectar-eating bats from the genus Pteropus.1
2.3
There are four species of flying-fox in mainland Australia:
Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus);
Spectacled Flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus subsp. conspicillatus);
Black Flying-fox (Pteropus alecto); and
Little Red Flying-fox (Pteropus scapulatus).2
2.4
Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-foxes are nationally protected species located in the south-eastern temperate and northern tropical wet forests, respectively.3 The Black and Little Red Flying-fox are not nationally protected species, and as such their management is the responsibility of state governments under their relevant wildlife legislation. However, both species of unprotected flying-fox coexist with the two nationally protected flying-foxes.4
2.5
Flying-fox species roost in large groups, known as camps, in the exposed branches of trees. Camps generally remain in a similar location, with some camps noted as having been used for more than 100 years. The camps ‘provide resting habitat, sites of social interactions and refuge for animals during phases of their annual cycle, such as birth, lactation and conception’.5
2.6
Tension between human communities and flying-foxes has been recorded for hundreds of years, with various attempts made to manage the species.6 In recent years, increased instances of urban roosting and decreases in the flying-fox population nation-wide has seen the management of the species once again become a concern for relevant authorities.

Nationally protected flying-foxes

Original listing

2.7
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) provides a legal framework to identify, protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities, wetlands and heritage places—defined in the EPBC Act as matters of national environmental significance.7
2.8
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) undertakes a scientific assessment of a species’ threat status to determine whether a species is eligible for listing as a threatened species under the EPBC Act. When the assessment is complete, the TSSC provides its advice to the Minister for a decision on whether to amend the threatened species list.8
2.9
Both the Spectacled Flying-fox and Grey-headed Flying-fox were listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act on the basis of Criterion one of the Act (decline in numbers). The Spectacled Flying-fox also met Criterion five (probability of extinction in the wild is at least 10 per cent in the medium-term).9
2.10
Population decline is measured as the ‘observed, estimated, inferred or suspected reduction’ within a period of the past 10 years or three generations, whichever is longer.10 A decline of 30 to 50 per cent within the period qualifies the species as Vulnerable, of 50 to 80 per cent as Endangered, and of greater than 80 per cent as Critically Endangered.11
2.11
In 2001, the TSSC considered available data from counts of Grey-headed Flying-foxes conducted in 1989 and 1998​​–2001. A comparison of these counts showed a decrease from at least 566 000 individuals in 1989 to at most 400 000 in 1998–2001.12 This qualified the species for inclusion in the Vulnerable category under the EPBC Act in 2001.
2.12
Counts of Spectacled Flying-foxes undertaken between 1998 and 2000 indicated a decrease in the population from 153 000 individuals in 1998 to approximately 80 000 in 1999 and 2000.13 According to modelling, the species was likely to be extinct in less than 100 years, ‘due to the high levels of death associated with human interactions’.14 The Spectacled Flying-fox was listed as ‘Vulnerable’ under the EPBC Act in 2002.
2.13
When considering the available data, the TSSC acknowledged uncertainties regarding the accuracy of population counts.15 Dr Peggy Eby noted that only a small number of known camps were sampled during the counts in 1989 and 1998–2001, and the available data was compiled to generate the total population size.16 These population estimates were raised with the Committee as a point of contention regarding the original listing of the flying-foxes as Vulnerable. Issues relating to potentially inaccurate population counts are discussed in the next section.
2.14
According to the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (now the Department of the Environment and Energy (the Department)), the species were listed in the EPBC Act to recognise that the long-term survival of the species was under threat, to prevent their further decline, and to assist community efforts toward the recovery of the species.17

State protections

2.15
In addition to national protection, several flying-fox species are covered under state environmental protection legislation.
2.16
In Victoria, all native wildlife is protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 (Vic), including microbats and megabats.18 In addition, species can be nominated to the Threatened Species List under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Act 1988 (Vic). These species are assessed using the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria. The Grey-headed Flying-fox was listed as a threatened species under the Act in 2001. 19
2.17
In New South Wales (NSW), the NSW Scientific Committee assesses nominations under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (NSW) based on IUCN criteria.20 The Grey-headed Flying-fox was listed as Vulnerable in 2001. The Scientific Committee identified ‘habitat loss as the primary reason for the decline – particularly the important feeding habitat on the coastal plains of NSW and southern Queensland’.21 In addition, the Department of Environment and Conservation established the NSW Flying-Fox Consultative Committee following the listing in 2001 to provide a means for balanced public input and to develop strategies to conserve and manage flying-foxes in the state.22
2.18
In Queensland, species are assessed by the Special Technical Committee under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld). They are assessed to meet guidelines for each threatened species level, which include ‘reduction of state-wide population and/or the existence of threatening processes that could put the species at risk of extinction’.23 The Grey-headed Flying-fox is listed as Least Concern under the Act, while the Spectacled Flying-fox was listed as Vulnerable in 2015.24

Ecology, population size and distribution

Ecological and ecosystem importance

2.19
Flying-foxes play a significant role as seed dispersers and pollinators for a wide range of native trees across Australia. In particular, the Grey-headed Flying-fox is considered a ‘keystone species’, with the South East Region Conservation Alliance describing the species as ‘highly significant to the health and maintenance of many ecosystems in eastern Australia’.25 This includes three World Heritage Listed Areas: Fraser Island, the Gondwana Rainforest, and the Greater Blue Mountains.
2.20
The species has the ability to move freely among habitat types, allowing it to spread genetic material across ‘fragmented, degraded and urban landscapes’.26 Some estimates suggest a single Grey-headed Flying-fox can disperse up to 60 000 seeds in one night, travelling hundreds of kilometres. Flying-foxes have been recorded travelling more than 5 400 kilometres in two days between camps.27
2.21
Tamworth Regional Council described the importance of the Grey-headed Flying-fox:
Long-distance seed dispersal and pollination makes flying-foxes critical to the long-term persistence of many plant communities, including eucalypt forests, rainforests, woodlands and wetlands. Seeds that germinate away from their parental plant have a greater chance of growing into a mature plant. This genetic diversity allows species to adapt to environmental change and respond to disease pathogens. Transfer of genetic material between forest patches is particularly important in the context of contemporary fragmented landscapes.
These ecological services ultimately protect the long-term health and biodiversity of Australia’s bushland and wetlands. In turn, native forests act as carbon sinks, provide habitat for other fauna and flora, stabilise river systems and catchments, add value to production of hardwood timber, honey and fruit, and provide recreational and tourism opportunities worth millions of dollars each year.28
2.22
Submissions also noted the significant role the Spectacled Flying-fox has in maintaining the flora of the Wet Tropics Heritage Area.29 The species feed on the fruit of a number of trees ‘for which no other seed dispersers are known’ and can spread seeds up to 80 kilometres.30
2.23
Due to the ecological importance of flying-foxes, efforts to manage critical habitat is likely to have a positive impact on hundreds of vegetation communities across Australia’s east coast, as well as nectar and fruit-feeding bats, birds, mammals and other fauna.31

Current populations

2.24
Determining accurate counts of current flying-fox populations, and population trends, is essential for the monitoring of the Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-foxes’ national distribution and conservation status.
2.25
Flying-fox population counts are currently undertaken by the National Flying-fox Monitoring Programme (NFFMP), a collaboration between the Federal Government, state governments in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, and the CSIRO.32
2.26
Since November 2012, the NFFMP has conducted quarterly counts across eastern and parts of northern Australia, measuring the population of all four species of Pteropus and all known camps of Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-foxes.33 The data is managed by the CSIRO and is publicly available from the Department.
2.27
Dr David Westcott, Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO Land and Water, told the Committee that results from the NFFMP to date suggest:
… the Grey-headed population is stable at best. It is likely that it is declining slightly. In the case of the Spectacled Flying-fox there is no doubt that it is declining, and has declined dramatically over the last 10 to 15 years.34
2.28
CSIRO detailed a decline in the Spectacled Flying-fox population from 214 000 in November 2005 to approximately 100 000 in November 2015, with no indications of recovery in 2016.35 The population of Grey-headed Flying-foxes in November 2015 was estimated at 672 000, notably with a margin of error of 229 500.36
2.29
Vegetation clearing or modification of critical habitat, occasional extreme heat events and tropical cyclones such as Larry and Yasi were implicated in the decline of the species.37 Flying-foxes are susceptible to extreme heat events, particularly when the temperature exceeds 42 degrees Celsius. It was noted that during a heat wave in the summer of 2014 approximately 45 500 flying-foxes died. Extreme heat events are likely to increase in frequency in coming decades.38 Mass pregnancy loss and premature births are known to occur in response to environmental stress, further lowering the population growth rate.39
2.30
Black Flying-foxes have expanded their southern range limit, increasing their geographic overlap with the Grey-headed Flying-fox. The population decline in Grey-headed Flying-foxes relative to Black Flying-foxes suggests that indirect competition for resources favours the latter species. The reasons behind this range shift are unclear, as they are not readily explained by climate or habitat change, and further research is required.40
2.31
These occurrences are exacerbated by the species’ limited capacity to recover from large population losses ‘due to their slow sexual maturation, small litter size, long gestation and extended maternal dependence’.41
2.32
On the basis of these findings, the CSIRO suggested in April 2015 that the Spectacled Flying-fox warranted being listed as Endangered under the EPBC Act against Criteria one and five.42 The Committee heard that the TSSC was currently assessing the species for possible uplisting to a higher threat category.43
2.33
Evidence received by the Committee at the public roundtable hearing and in various submissions drew attention to the challenges associated with obtaining accurate flying-fox population counts. Flying-fox monitoring is considered to be prone to uncertainty and errors, due to a number of attributes of the animals. This includes their distribution over tens of thousands of square kilometres44, the size of roosts and camps, the location of camps (usually situated in areas with limited access and visibility) and their rapid movement between camps and regions.45 The Committee heard that uncertainties regarding accurate population counts are a source of frustration among communities affected by flying-fox roosting.46
2.34
Due to a lack of available technology, Dr Westcott noted that historical data from flying-fox counts could not be considered reliable, and an accurate comparison between historical and current data could not be made.47 He also noted that due to methodological and other errors associated with the counts, the focus should not be on absolute numbers, but rather the long-term trends in numbers. It was estimated that it would require an additional seven years (from 2016) of monitoring to obtain counts accurate enough to provide robust scientific evidence of population trends.48

Distribution

2.35
The Committee heard that flying-foxes are highly mobile species that follow food sources and often gather in large groups in response to significant flowering events. Both the Spectacled and Grey-headed Flying-fox have complex nomadic patterns, determined by variable flowering and fruiting seasons. Both species exist as continuous populations in Australia. The Grey-headed Flying-fox is widespread throughout its range during summer, and becomes concentrated in NSW during winter.49 The Spectacled Flying-fox is concentrated in the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area between Townsville and Cooktown, with roosts located within six kilometres of Mabi Forest rainforest.50
2.36
The two unlisted species, Little Red and Black Flying-foxes, are located across northern and eastern Australia, with the Little Red, the most widespread megabat in Australia, likely to be found further inland than other flying-foxes.51
2.37
The distribution of Australia’s flying-foxes mainly corresponds with the country’s human population, resulting in on-going tensions between the needs of human communities and flying-foxes.52
2.38
The distribution of known Spectacled Flying-foxes in Australia (in 2010), based on known camps, is illustrated in Figure 2.1.
2.39
The distribution of known Grey-headed Flying-foxes is illustrated in Figure 2.2.

Figure 2.1:  Distribution of Spectacled Flying-foxes

Title: Map of distribution of Spectacled Flying-foxes - Description: Distribution of Spectacled Flying-foxes on far-northern Queensland coastline
Source
Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, National recovery plan for the spectacled flying fox Pteropus conspicillatus, 2010, p. 15.

Figure 2.2:  Location of camps used by Grey-headed Flying-foxes

Title: Location of camps used by Grey-headed Flying-foxes - Description: Map diagram of Grey-headed Flying-fox camps throughout eastern Australia
Source
Department of the Environment and Energy, Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliophalus), January 2017, p. 14.

Habitat requirements and roosting behaviour

2.40
The location and size of flying-fox camps depends on the availability of resources within a 20 to 50 kilometre radius of the camps. Although some camps are inhabited continuously, camps are generally temporary and seasonal, corresponding to the flowering of flying-foxes’ preferred food trees.53
2.41
The main source of food for flying-foxes is the nectar and pollen of flowering native trees, including a number of species of eucalyptus, turpentines, paperbarks and banksias. Dr Eby noted the Grey-headed Flying-fox has a preference for the spotted gum, which only flowers once every four years.54 It was noted that this flowering attracts large numbers of flying-foxes, as seen in Batemans Bay (in Eurobodalla Shire) in 2012 and 2016. 55
2.42
Flying-foxes have complex habitat requirements and require ‘multiple populations of food trees dispersed over a large area’. Consequently, the species is vulnerable to habitat degradation, as their preferred food sources are unlikely to exist solely within conservation reserves, such as national parks.56 The difficulty in predicting the locations of productive foraging habitat has resulted in the inability to predict and plan for influxes of flying-foxes to particular areas.

Increased urban roosting

2.43
The increase in flying-fox urban roosting and the subsequent effects on communities located near urban camps was the subject of a large number of submissions to the inquiry. It was noted that communities were on occasions faced with sudden influxes of flying-foxes, hundreds of thousands in the case of Batemans Bay57, without prior warning. This has caused notable distress to residents of these communities.
2.44
The Committee heard that there has been ‘an exponential increase in the number of flying-fox camps in urban areas over the past 10 to 15 years’.58
2.45
It was noted that while there were a number of hypotheses regarding why flying-foxes have become more urbanised in Australia, no conclusive answer had been reached to date.59
2.46
One of the most common hypotheses presented to the Committee was that the rate of new urban camps had accelerated due to food shortages.60 These food shortages were primarily due to the ongoing loss of winter–spring food caused by vegetation clearing, particularly on the coastal plains of south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales. 61 The Department considers the loss of foraging habitat, particularly winter forage, the primary threat to Grey-headed Flying-foxes.62
2.47
Dr Eby described the effects of food shortages:
During food shortages, flying-foxes alter roosting and feeding behaviours in predictable ways that allow them to ‘get by on less’. They increase their use of garden plantings; establish new camps in areas beyond their usual range boundary while searching for food; and they break into small roosting groups, close to feeding sites.
In the past, the temporary camps flying-foxes formed during food shortages were abandoned once conditions improved. However, in recent years a portion of these ‘temporary’ camps have persisted—leading to an increase in the number of camps in urban areas and a more persistent presence in inland areas, particularly in rural cities and towns. Many of these new camps have become sites of conflict.63
2.48
The loss of native foraging habitat has been coupled with an increase in the availability of reliable food sources in urban environments, including parks, gardens and backyards.64 In particular, there has been an increase in the planting of native and exotic fruit-bearing trees which, while a suboptimal food source for flying-foxes, has attracted the species to urban areas in times of food source shortage.65
2.49
The Committee heard that increased urban roosting had led to misconceptions that flying-fox numbers were increasing dramatically nationwide.66 This further added to the negative perception of flying-foxes overrunning local communities.
2.50
It was suggested that there needed to be a replacement of flying-fox native foraging habitat in low conflict areas, in the hope that it would reduce the huge influxes in numbers to one particular location.67

Impacts: social, economic, environmental and health

2.51
Throughout the inquiry, the Committee received a range of evidence about the negative impacts that increasing incidences of urban roosting of flying-foxes has had on individuals and businesses in affected communities. This evidence is discussed in the remainder of this chapter.

Social impacts

2.52
A number of correspondents and submitters to the inquiry noted the negative social impacts on communities located near urban flying-fox roosts, some of which had significant effect on residents’ quality of life. The Committee acknowledges that the impacts that flying-foxes can have on residents or businesses located close to a camp, or underneath a regular flight path, can be very challenging.
2.53
Nuisance is regarded as a particular issue, from the noise and ‘oppressive’ smell of flying-fox roosts.68 Submissions from residents detailed the impact on their lifestyle, including not being able to utilise their backyards (especially during evenings) for months at a time69, being forced to live with windows and doors constantly closed70, and children not able to use playground equipment.71 Schools have also limited the amount of time schoolchildren spend outdoors and on play equipment, due to the presence of flying-fox roosts in nearby and adjacent areas.72
2.54
Those living in areas near flying-fox roosting sites reported significant issues with sleep disturbance, caused by the loud noises from the camps. This is said to be particularly problematic early in the morning, when flying-foxes return from foraging.73
2.55
Submitters advised that flying-fox excrement has caused damage to private property74, businesses75, and public parks. Residents in some areas were no longer able to leave clothing, cars, toys and other household items outside, due to the damage caused by flying-foxes. In some instances, park amenity was disrupted and parks were closed to the public due to health and safety concerns.76
2.56
It was noted that some affected residents felt they were not able to access help when the impacts of flying-foxes became overwhelming. Measures to minimise the social impacts of flying-foxes, such as subsidised services and awareness programs were not always available.77 Furthermore, few resources were available to proactively address the social impacts of flying-foxes, resulting in actions only being taken once large quantities of flying-foxes had already become an issue.78

Economic impacts

2.57
In addition to the social costs of flying-foxes in urban areas, the Committee was informed that individuals, businesses and local governments also incur significant financial costs.
2.58
Flying-fox damage to commercial fruit crops was noted as an ongoing problem for industry, causing economic and emotional distress to those involved.79 While netting is often successful in protecting crops from flying-fox damage, the Committee was advised that the process is costly and not financially viable for all growers.80 The Committee heard that damage to commercial crops may occur when flying-foxes are driven to alternative food sources during periods of food shortage81; therefore the conservation of appropriate habitat, particularly during periods of fruit maturation, is important for limiting commercial losses and mortality of flying-foxes.82
2.59
As discussed above, homes and businesses incurred financial costs to repair infrastructure damaged by flying-foxes. Added to these costs was the reported loss of revenue for businesses located near flying-fox roosts, due to flying-fox excrement and excessive noise. It was noted that the tourism industry in particular has been affected.83
2.60
Batemans Bay residents experienced power outages caused by flying-foxes, with some outages lasting for up to nine consecutive nights. This had an economic impact on domestic activities and businesses, and also resulted in the loss of telephone and internet services.84
2.61
The cost to local governments responsible for managing flying-foxes is also significant. In a case study of 17 flying-fox dispersal attempts, costs ranged from tens of thousands to millions of dollars, in the case of active dispersals.85 This corresponds with submissions from a number of councils, which estimated costs of up to $6.2 million in the long-term in the case of Batemans Bay.86 A number of councils noted that despite the cost, there was a high degree of uncertainty regarding long-term outcomes or success of dispersals.87

Environmental impacts

2.62
Several submissions noted the environmental impacts of increased flying-fox roosting in urban and peri-urban areas. This included the damage to and eventual destruction of roost trees, or the ‘removal of mature attractive or significant trees by councils to provide separation from human inhabitants’.88 Seascape Technology highlighted the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, Singleton, Charters Towers and Batemans Bay as examples of areas that had seen damage to roosting trees.89 In the case of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Grey-headed Flying-fox roosting contributed to the death of 33 trees and 35 palms between 1989 and 2009.90 The destruction of mature trees in the Cairns CBD91 and the Hunter Valley was also reported.92
2.63
Tamworth Regional Council stated that flying-fox roosting behaviour had led to vegetation damage in the King George Avenue area, with deterioration in tall tree cover in that area. The larger trees in the area lost portions of their crowns due to the damage, leading to smaller roosting sites. The Council suggested these smaller roost sites may have contributed to the movement of flying-foxes into a historical camp area opposite Bicentennial Park.93
2.64
Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Garden hosted a permanent colony of Grey-headed Flying-foxes from 1986, with the numbers peaking in the summer of 2002–03. The presence of such a large number of flying-foxes roosting all year round in a small and sensitive area damaged heritage-listed vegetation, and the species was subsequently dispersed to a more suitable location in March 2003.94

Health impacts

2.65
Concerns about the impacts of flying-foxes on public health have contributed to negative public perceptions of the species in Australia. An increase in urban roosting has exacerbated these concerns, and has led to extensive media coverage in affected areas.
2.66
A number of submissions discussed community concerns regarding the public health risks associated with flying-foxes, particularly where roosts were located in urban areas. A public survey conducted by Tamworth Regional Council regarding the presence of flying-foxes in the region identified fear of disease as a ‘major concern’, with 51 per cent of all respondents nominating human health as an issue.95
2.67
In Australia, flying-foxes are natural hosts for a least three zoonotic diseases: the rabies-like Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV); Hendra virus (HeV); and Menangle virus.96 Animal disease outbreaks are generally managed by the relevant state agencies for primary industry and health.

Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV)

2.68
ABLV is found in all flying-fox species in mainland Australia. The incidences of ABLV in flying-foxes is considered low (less than one per cent), however the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries suggests incidences are higher (five to 10 per cent) among sick, injured or orphaned animals.97
2.69
Since it was first identified in Australia in 1996, three people have died as a result of ABLV infection (in 1996, 1998 and 2013)98, after being bitten or scratched by bats.
2.70
According to Australian health authorities, ABLV poses a low public health risk. The virus is transmitted from bats to humans ‘through a bite or scratch, but may have the potential to be transferred if bat saliva directly contacts the eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin’.99 Exposure can be reduced by not picking up flying-foxes when they are on the ground, and pre- and post-exposure vaccinations are available.100

Hendra virus (HeV)

2.71
HeV is transmitted from flying-foxes to horses, and can then be transmitted from infected horses to other horses, humans and dogs. There is no evidence that HeV can be transmitted directly from flying-foxes to humans. The disease is considered to have a high mortality rate (over 79 per cent in horses and 57 per cent in humans).101 In humans, HeV presents as a serious and often fatal respiratory and/or neurological disease, and treatment options are limited.102
2.72
Since 1994, 81 horses and four of the seven people infected with HeV have died. There was a significant increase in outbreaks of HeV between June and August 2011 (18 outbreaks), which caused the death of 23 horses and the euthanasia of the first dog infected with HeV.103
2.73
Following the outbreak of HeV in 2011, the Intergovernmental Hendra Virus Taskforce was established to undertake long-term planning for disease management. As a result of the taskforce, a HeV vaccine for horses was released in 2012.104
2.74
The 2011 outbreak also resulted in the establishment of the National Hendra Virus Research Program, which provided the initial funding for the NFFMP.105 The NFFMP intends to provide data concerning trends in population size, structure and dynamics, which may subsequently be used to predict risk factors including disease transmission and commercial crop damage.106

Other health concerns

2.75
Menangle virus, first isolated in a NSW piggery in 1997, has been recorded in pigs, humans and flying-foxes. The two recorded cases of Menangle virus in Australia caused severe flu-like symptoms in two workers at the same piggery. Both made full recoveries. The virus is thought to be transmitted to pigs from flying-foxes via an oral–faecal matter route.107
2.76
A number of submissions to the inquiry noted concerns regarding the health impacts of flying-fox droppings in urban areas, particularly in backyards, schools, playgrounds and water tanks.108 Health risks associated with droppings primarily relates to the small risk to humans of gastrointestinal disease. As with other animals, flying-foxes may carry a range of bacteria in their gut, and their droppings ‘may cause illness in humans if swallowed’.109 Standard hygiene practices, including frequent handwashing and covering drinking water supplies, is recommended to reduce the incidence of infection.110
2.77
Northern Beaches Council reported that there were a number of issues relating to public health that were not addressed by current government policies. These include a lack of monitoring of the spread of disease within the flying-fox population in NSW; that chronic issues such as sleep deprivation and disturbance were specific to individuals and not well understood; and that ongoing stress from a lack of amenities and potentially reduced property values are not easily monitored or readily accepted. 111
2.78
As noted above, Eurobodalla Shire Council described the impacts of power outages attributed to flying-foxes as significant, occurring for an extended period of time and affecting the operation of medical equipment such as dialysis machines.112
2.79
Eurobodalla Council also noted reports from the community regarding chronic immune and respiratory illness being caused or exacerbated by living near flying-fox camps and incidence of mental illness caused by feeling ‘trapped’ indoors due to the smell and noise of nearby camps.113 In particular, the Committee was told that residents living near the camp at Batemans Bay reported increased occurrences of asthma, skin irritation and other medical conditions.114

Committee comments

2.80
Flying-foxes are ecologically important species, acting as seed dispersers and pollinators for a wide range of Australian native trees. The Committee recognises that it is essential that efforts are continued to gather accurate population counts of flying-foxes, particularly nationally protected Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-foxes, to provide accurate data regarding the threats associated with population decline. While noting the challenges inherent in obtaining accurate population data, the Committee believes that the continuation of the NFFMP is required to obtain information about population trends. This data can then be used to identify, preserve and improve critical foraging and roosting habitat, especially in areas away from affected urban areas.
2.81
Grey-headed and Spectacled Flying-foxes were listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act, due to a recorded decline in numbers. The species were listed in the Act to recognise that the long-term survival of the species was threatened, to prevent a further decline in numbers, and to encourage the recovery of the species. However, in recent decades flying-foxes have become more urbanised in Australia, leading to increases in tensions between flying-foxes and humans. While food shortages, the loss of native habitat and increased availability of reliable food sources in urban areas have been highlighted to the Committee as possible drivers for urban roosting, no conclusive explanation has been found. Further research is required to gain a better understanding of this phenomenon.
2.82
The Committee recognises that the social, economic, environmental and health impacts associated with flying-foxes can be significant, with increased urban roosting leading to adverse effects on residents’ quality of life. In order to address these issues, additional work is required to educate and equip residents with measures to reduce the impact of flying-foxes on their homes and businesses. Community education programs may also improve understanding of health risks and preventative measures.
2.83
These issues are discussed further in Chapter 4.

  • 1
    CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 2.
  • 2
    Environmental Defenders Offices of Australia (EDOs of Australia), Submission 27, p. 2.
  • 3
    CSIRO, Submission 66, p 2.
  • 4
    Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 4.
  • 5
    Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 4.
  • 6
    CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 11.
  • 7
    Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 2.
  • 8
    Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 3.
  • 9
    Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 3.
  • 10
    Dr Peggy Eby, Submission 62.1, p. 3.
  • 11
    National Environmental Science Program, Submission 44, p. 3.
  • 12
    Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 5.
  • 13
    Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 3.
  • 14
    Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 3.
  • 15
    Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 5.
  • 16
    Dr Peggy Eby, Submission 62.1, p. 4.
  • 17
    Department of the Environment and Heritage, ‘EPBC Act Administrative Guidelines on Significance—Supplement for the Grey-headed Flying-fox’, <https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/50453032-5d0c-4352-a1a2-485faa77554f/files/grey-headed-flying-fox.pdf> viewed 20 December 2016; Department of the Environment and Heritage, ‘EPBC Act Administrative Guidelines on Significance—Supplement for the Spectacled Flying-fox’, <https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/0402f16a-6e59-493e-9a79-9c9d4ea6cb32/files/spectacled-flying-fox.pdf> viewed 20 December 2016.
  • 18
    Victorian Government, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, ‘Facts about flying foxes, <http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/environment-and-wildlife/wildlife/flying-foxes/facts-about-flying-foxes> viewed 20 December 2016.
  • 19
    Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 6.
  • 20
    Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 6.
  • 21
    NSW Government, Office of Environment and Heritage, ‘Cumberland Plain Recovery Plan’, <http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspecies/Grey-headedFlying-foxVulnerable.htm> viewed 20 December 2016.
  • 22
    NSW Government, Office of Environment and Heritage, ‘The NSW Flying-Fox Consultative Committee’, <http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspecies/TheNSWFlying-FoxConsultativeCommittee.htm> viewed 11 January 2017.
  • 23
    Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 6.
  • 24
    Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Species Profile and Threats Database: Pteropus conspicillatus—Spectacled Flying-fox’, <http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=185> viewed 20 December 2016.
  • 25
    South East Region Conservation Alliance, Submission 17, p. 1.
  • 26
    Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, Submission 47, p. 6.
  • 27
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 14.
  • 28
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 14.
  • 29
    Environmental Defenders Office of Northern Queensland, Submission 11, p. 2; Noel Castley-Wright, Submission 15, p. [2]; Dr John Luly, Submission 55, p. [4].
  • 30
    Mr Steve Amesbury, Submission 3, p. 1.
  • 31
    Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 9.
  • 32
    CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 3.
  • 33
    CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 3.
  • 34
    Dr David Westcott, Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 6.
  • 35
    CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 5.
  • 36
    CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 8
  • 37
    National Environmental Science Program, Submission 44, p. 4.
  • 38
    National Environmental Science Program, Submission 44, p. 4.
  • 39
    Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 9.
  • 40
    Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 10.
  • 41
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 15.
  • 42
    CSIRO, ‘Status and Trends of Australia’s EPBC-Listed Flying-Foxes, April 2015, p. ii, <http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/9799051f-e0a2-4617-ba0d-8e2be2a364df/files/status-trends-australias-epbc-listed-flying-foxes.pdf> viewed 19 December 2016.
  • 43
    Mr Stephen Oxley, First Assistant Secretary, Department of the Environment and Energy, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 6.
  • 44
    National Environmental Science Program, Submission 44, p. 3.
  • 45
    CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 3.
  • 46
    Councillor Liz Innes, Mayor, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November, p. 10.
  • 47
    Dr Westcott, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 9.
  • 48
    Dr Westcott, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 14.
  • 49
    Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, p. 3.
  • 50
    Department of the Environment and Energy, Submission 63, pp. 3–4.
  • 51
    NSW Government, Office of Environment and Heritage, ‘Flying-foxes’, <http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/flyingfoxes.htm> viewed 22 December 2016.
  • 52
    CSIRO, Submission 66, p. 2.
  • 53
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 15.
  • 54
    Dr Peggy Eby, Private capacity, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 20.
  • 55
    Mrs Jessica Bracks, Principal Wildlife Biologist, Ecosure Pty Ltd, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 21.
  • 56
    Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 15.
  • 57
    Mr Lindsey Usher, Director Planning and Sustainability Services, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 8.
  • 58
    Dr Eby, Private capacity, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 4.
  • 59
    Dr Westcott, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 6.
  • 60
    Dr Alison Peel, Submission 51, p. [1]; Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, pp. 3–10; Dr Peggy Eby, Submission 62, pp. 7–8; National Environmental Science Program , Submission 44, p. 4, World Wildlife Fund, Submission 37, p. 2; Sydney Coastal Councils Group, Submission 36, p. 4.
  • 61
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 15.
  • 62
    Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 5.
  • 63
    Dr Peggy Eby, Submission 62.1, p. 2.
  • 64
    Australasian Bat Society, Submission 61, p. 3.
  • 65
    Dr Alison Peel, Submission 51, p. [1].
  • 66
    Dr Westcott, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 6.
  • 67
    Mrs Bracks, Ecosure, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24th November 2016, p. 21.
  • 68
    Dr Alison Peel, Submission 51, p. [3]; Ms Susan Jenvey, Submission 32, p. [1]; Eurobodalla City Council, Submission 26, p. 2; Mrs Verity Davis-Raiss, Submission 21, pp. [2–5]; Sutherland Shire Council, Submission 22, p. 1; Mr Allan Brown, Submission 7, p. [1].
  • 69
    Cessnock City Council, Submission 30.1, p. 4.
  • 70
    Ms Gail Vincent, Submission 38, p. 2.
  • 71
    Mrs Melissa Paice, Submission 20, p. [2].
  • 72
    Mr David Timbury, Submission 58, p. [2].
  • 73
    Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 2; Ms Melissa Paice, Submission 20, p. [1]; Verity Davis-Raiss, Submission 21, p. [4].
  • 74
    Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 2; Cessnock City Council, Submission 30.1, p. 4.
  • 75
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 4.
  • 76
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 5; Ms Susan Jenvey, Submission 32, p. [1].
  • 77
    Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 11.
  • 78
    Cessnock City Council Staff, Submission 30.1, p. 4.
  • 79
    Mr Roger Terrey, Submission 4, p. [1].
  • 80
    Growcom, Submission 14, p. [1].
  • 81
    Dr Westcott, CSIRO Land and Water, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 9.
  • 82
    Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 17.
  • 83
    Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 2
  • 84
    Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 3.
  • 85
    Ku-ring-gai Council, Submission 16, p. [2].
  • 86
    Eurobodalla Shire Council, ‘Summary of Batemans Bay flying fox camp draft dispersal plan May 2016’, <http://www.esc.nsw.gov.au/living-in/about/our-natural-environment/grey-headed-flying-foxes/summary-of-batemans-bay-flying-fox-camp-draft-dispersal-plan-may-2016> viewed 12 January 2017.
  • 87
    Northern Beaches Council, Submission 6, p. [2]; Ku-ring-gai Council, Submission 16, p. [2]; Sutherland Shire Council, Submission 22, p. 3; Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 8; Local Government NSW, Submission 46, p. [4].
  • 88
    Seascape Technology, Submission 68, p. [3].
  • 89
    Seascape Technology, Submission 68, p. [3].
  • 90
    The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Exhibit 1, p. iii.
  • 91
    Hon. Warren Entsch MP, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 5.
  • 92
    Mr David Timbury, Submission 58, p. [1].
  • 93
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 4.
  • 94
    Victoria State Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, ‘Flying-foxes’, <http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/environment-and-wildlife/wildlife/flying-foxes> viewed 15 December 2016.
  • 95
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 4.
  • 96
    Queensland Government, ‘Bats and human health’ <http://conditions.health.qld.gov.au/HealthCondition/condition/14/33/14/Bats-human-health> viewed 12 November 2016.
  • 97
    Queensland Government, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, ‘Australian bat lyssavirus overview’ <https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/animal-industries/animal-health-and-diseases/a-z-list/australian-bat-lyssavirus/australian-bat-lyssavirus> viewed 12 November 2016.
  • 98
    NSW Health, ‘Rabies and Australian Bat Lyssavirus Infection’, <http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/infectious/factsheets/pages/rabies-australian-bat-lyssavirus-infection.aspx> viewed 17 January 2017.
  • 99
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 83.
  • 100
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 83.
  • 101
    Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Compendium of Findings from the National Hendra Virus Research Program 2016, p. 3.
  • 102
    Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Compendium of Findings from the National Hendra Virus Research Program 2016, p. 47.
  • 103
    Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Compendium of Findings from the National Hendra Virus Research Program 2016, p. 3.
  • 104
    NSW Department of Primary Industries, ‘Hendra virus vaccine information for vets’ <http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/animals-and-livestock/horses/health-and-disease/hendra-virus/vaccine-info-vets> viewed 13 November 2016.
  • 105
    Department of Environment and Energy, ‘Monitoring Flying-Fox Populations, <http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/flying-fox-monitoring> viewed 11 January 2017.
  • 106
    Department of the Environment and Energy, ‘Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)’, January 2017, p. 12.
  • 107
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 84.
  • 108
    Mrs Verity Davis-Raiss, Submission 21, p. [3]; Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, pp. 2–3; Cessnock City Council, Submission 30.1, p. 3; Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 4; Mr David Timbury, Submission 58, pp. [1–2].
  • 109
    Queensland Health, ‘Bats and human health’, <http://conditions.health.qld.gov.au/HealthCondition/media/pdf/14/33/14/bats-and-human-health-v7> viewed 13 November 2016.
  • 110
    Tamworth Regional Council, Submission 48, p. 84.
  • 111
    Northern Beaches Council, Submission 6, p. 2.
  • 112
    Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 3.
  • 113
    Eurobodalla Shire Council, Submission 26, p. 3.
  • 114
    Mr Usher, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 24 November 2016, p. 25.

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