Let’s Give a Flying Fox

Folks, we know what it’s like to have to deal with foul, shrieking, destructive, disease spreading pests, but enough about the current state of Federal politics.

Part of a colony of flying foxes near Gldstone’s CBD

So, having a few thousand Flying Foxes invade your turf  would drive anyone a bit batty.

Which is why the Rockhampton City Council has been trying to move on a colony of flying foxes from a section of their botanical gardens.

I was a recent visitor to the gardens and can confirm that the mess and noise drove me away from the kiosk picnic tables.  I eventually enjoyed my snack in a quieter setting, with much less din or chance of having my cake and coffee sprinkled with bat droppings.

It was a small sacrifice to make.

As a boy living in Far North Queensland, then here in Central Queensland, we would watch the sun set each evening while a river of black flying foxes, or fruit bats as we used to call them, would stream overhead from horizon to horizon.   

It was an amazing sight, but you learned pretty quickly to get your laundry in before sunset and not to look up at the twilight sky with your mouth open.

My mouth was firmly shut while taking this photo

I also knew the spectacle broke the hearts of fruit growers whose living depended on their crops not being chewed to bits by thousands of little fangs every night.

In response, many farmers, gardeners, and pretty much everyone else with some sort of projectile firing weapon, would blast away at the flying foxes, or cut down roosting trees, in an attempt to drive them off, or make them extinct.

Quite often they were successful and the colony’s either vanished or moved on.  As a result, the ‘river’ of flying foxes trickled to a small stream.

But, like annoying neighbours who can’t take a hint, they’re back (although, they were here long before European settlement, so they kind have a right to hang around in the few trees we’ve left standing).

Now, there are three schools of thought on what we can do about flying foxes roosting in our town’s parks and gardens.

This week, while delightedly watching a ‘fruit bat tornado’ taking wing near my home in the heart of our city, I was a bit surprised at how many people around me suggested a return to Option 1: ‘The Good Old Days’ of shooting them again.

Again, mouth firmly shut…

Frankly, if given a choice between living with the flying foxes or having mobs of people running round the countryside merrily blasting away at the sky each sunset, I’ll take the bats thanks very much.

Although, one ‘humanitarian’ did suggest releasing a few dozen carpet snakes into the roosting colony.  “They’ll mop ‘em up in no time!” was his expert opinion.  His suggestion for getting rid of the resulting plague of fat carpet snakes afterwards will not be printed here.

The second option is to create some sort of noise to drive them away, e.g.: rock music, firecrackers, mobs of people with piercing whistles banging pots and pans.

Quieter options involve sprinkling roosting trees with alfoil, disco balls, CD’s or stuffed cats to deter roosting. 

Of course, if you’re successful, where do they move to?  Finding a spare patch of trees in the middle of nowhere, handy to food and water is getting trickier each year for humans, let alone flying foxes.

Finally, there is Option 3, we can learn to live with them

Sure, they may attract crocodiles, snakes and, goannas, harbour diseases and their droppings will remove the paint from your car with the efficiency of a belt sander, but flying foxes play an extremely crucial role in our environment.

Like most neighbours, knowing more about them will make you a lot more accepting and/or appreciative.

Besides, flying foxes know what it’s like to have to put up with a mob of noisy, smelly, destructive, messy, disease transferring pests moving into their neighbourhood too.

And if they’ve learned to live with us, then surely we can be better neighbours as well?

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