Sydney’s bats get the boot

Flying foxes are to get a noisy eviction from the city’s Royal Botanic Gardens.
By AG Staff with AAP May 14, 2010 Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page

GREY-HEADED FLYING FOXES are set to be driven out of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens using industrial noise, after Minister for Environment Protection, Peter Garret, gave his approval today.

Grey-headed flying foxes are a threatened species protected under both state and national environment law, and play a crucial role in pollination and seed dispersal in native forests. But the Botanic Gardens Trust applied for federal government approval to remove them after a colony of up to 22,000 animals killed 26 mature trees and 20 palms, while continuing to threaten 300 more.

The Trust proposes using industrial noise such as motors and loud banging which has been successfully used in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Conservationists argued the method there was cruel, but the Trust has already tried deterring the flying foxes with everything from strobe lights to shrimp paste and hanging up bags of python poo.

“The damage they are inflicting on our heritage trees is terrible and it will get worse,” says Dr Tim Executive Director of the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens Trust. “After a long consultation process and taking into account scientific and animal welfare considerations, a safe and humane plan has been developed to relocate the flying-foxes and give the gardens a chance to recover.”

Terrible damage to trees

Minister Garrett said he was confident there would be no ill effects on the flying foxes, after a thorough environmental assessment. “I have imposed strict conditions to ensure the dispersal happens in a way that minimises impacts,” he said in a statement. “The dispersal activity must happen within a limited time frame to avoid disrupting the camp during the sensitive breeding and roosting season.”

“An independent observer group and panel with expertise in animal biology and grey-headed flying foxes must oversee all aspects of the operation, and report back to my department,” added the minister.

The Trust will be responsible for the project, including ensuring the colony relocates to an appropriate site. It will also be accountable for any safety risks and must conduct a public health risk analysis before the operation. 

Tim says that “as part of the relocation, the Botanic Gardens Trust will conduct the most extensive scientific research projects ever on this threatened species, contributing to conservation work to protect them. Tagging and radio tracking of the flying-foxes will provide essential information on their patterns of movement, helping to manage the relocation.”

Relocation operations with intermittent noise are scheduled to begin in June, when flying fox numbers are at their lowest during the year.