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Bats on move but Hendra still a risk


CALLS for a cull of Warwick's flying fox colony have been renewed despite this week's scare campaign pushing the pests downstream of Warwick State High School on the Condamine River.

Four days' worth of fake shotgun blasts, ultrasonic noise bursts and even an inflatable scarecrow employed by professional bat-scarers Nature Call, engaged by the Southern Downs Regional Council, have successfully upset the bats' roosting pattern as was hoped.

The colony has now moved on from Queens Park and behind the high school's Hamilton Oval and as of yesterday afternoon had taken up residence in riverside treess between the Wallace St bridge and the end of Wantley St.

But with their new home now on the back doorstep of Allman Park Racecourse and paddocks used by local racehorse trainers, some locals are still urging the authorities to consider a cull due to Hendra virus fears.

Equine dentist Merv Mangan moved his horses from his leased paddock opposite Queens Park six months ago when the bats first appeared.

But yesterday Mr Mangan was preparing to dump a 180-bale soon to be cut lucerne crop he says will have been ruined by bat urine and faeces.

"If you move them on that's fine, but they just end up someone else's problem," Mr Mangan said.

"The experts say Hendra virus, if they have it, can stay in hay for six months. So do I ask myself which of my own horses am I going to risk?

"Why don't we find the greenies and the do-gooders and drop 20 tonnes of bat droppings in their backyard - we'd go to jail. I think a cull within reason is warranted."

Mr Mangan said the flying fox colony had devastated thousands of dollars worth of revegetation areas along the river, with dead, decaying and broken branches littering the banks.

Another equine industry source, who declined to be identified, called Hendra virus "a ticking time bomb" and said an outbreak would result in horse movement restrictions which could cripple local horse-related businesses and put human health at risk.

They also said an outbreak and any movement restrictions could jeopardise race meetings planned for Allman Park from April to June.

Local horses are being injected with a recently-released Hendra virus vaccine but the Australian Veterinary Association saying "myths" about its cost and length of immunity are delaying the take-up across the State.

The Daily News can also reveal that the owners of Lyndhurst Stud - which has a large frontage to the Condamine downstream from the colony's present location - have this week been in talks with the council and the State Government about their concerns over movement of the bat colony.

Stud managing director Merrell Kruger yesterday confirmed they had been "in contact with the authorities about what we consider to be a very serious matter", but declined to make further comment at this time.

Council chief executive officer Andrew Roach last night said the original State Government permit to move the bats had been amended this week.

The initial plan was to move the colony to near the Warwick-Allora back road rail bridge, but Mr Roach said a new location in the Sandy Creek area had been identified and the relevant property owners consulted.

"We are aware of the concerns of those involved in equine industries and we are working closely with them, including identifying this new movement location," Mr Roach said.

"But if the concern is Hendra then it's really getting to the stage where the State Government needs to take the lead role.

"Council undertook to move the flying foxes from the area near the high school because that was the priority.

"But there does come a point where it's out of our hands and State agencies need to step in."

Mr Roach said the council had outlaid an initial $25,000 for four to five days scaring work by Nature Call but if further action was required the cost to ratepayers would quickly escalate.

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BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats: Bats on move but Hendra still a risk
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