Fears for future of ACT's flying foxes

Fears for future of ACT's flying foxes
Rosslyn Beeby
May 18, 2012

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Environmentalists fear Canberra's Commonwealth Park grey-headed flying-fox colony could be threatened by new federal arrangements to ''cut green tape'' and give greater environmental powers to state governments.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has written to all state and territory environment ministers, flagging an agreement to ''eliminate duplication in the assessment and approval of the management of problematic flying-fox camps''.
The agreement would not require culling or dispersal of the grey-headed flying fox - a nationally listed threatened species - to be approved under the the federal government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
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'We've all seen the damage that bats can cause when they move to urban areas,'' Mr Burke said.
''We've seen examples of areas becoming almost unliveable and significant health risks being posed at schools. I'm firmly of the view that these risks should not be compounded by state and federal delays.''
One of Australia's leading bat experts, NSW ecologist Michael Pennay said Canberra's Commonwealth Park colony was ''quite small'', fluctuating between ''a few hundred and a few thousand bats'' and unlikely to be problematic.
''They are also in a relatively good location away from houses and schools and do not cause a great deal of problems,'' Dr Pennay said. ''I wouldn't think it'd be a good idea to try relocate them because there is a very real risk that they will move to another area less suitable. The bats generally cause very few problems in Canberra and many people have enjoyed seeing them here.
''I think most Canberrans - like most Australians - have moved beyond the 19th century and have learnt our lesson from the Tasmanian tiger and [have] realised when there is conflict between humans and wildlife our only option isn't to simply kill them.
''There are many alternatives and many orchards and backyard gardeners now use netting to protect their crops from bats and birds.''
Australasian Bat Society spokesman Nick Edards has raised concerns that the new conservation agreements proposed by Mr Burke could take effect before a national recovery plan for the grey-headed flying fox has been issued by the Federal Government. Mr Edards said recovery plans for federally listed threatened species were required to be in place within six years.
''We are now into the eleventh year without a recovery plan, and we have been told a third draft was recently submitted,'' he said.
The conservation agreements would remove the need for federal environmental approval for flying fox management where state approvals are in place, and meet federal environmental standards. The agreement will apply to actions to ''remove, disperse or manage'' the grey-headed flying foxes, where they are considered to have detrimental impacts on communities.

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BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats: Fears for future of ACT's flying foxes
Fears for future of ACT's flying foxes
BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats
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