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Police called in as bat protesters in Cairns CBD let fly over council dispersal

THE site of a flying fox colony in the Cairns CBD remains heavily guarded as authorities forge ahead with a controversial dispersal program.

Cairns Regional Council staff last night resumed pruning of the animals’ roosting tree near the City Library, despite continued community opposition to the works.


Protesters clashed with police and council staff on Monday night when the tree trimming began, with a man and a woman arrested after chaining themselves to cherry pickers.

Mayor Bob Manning yesterday condemned protesters’ behaviour, alleging they threw rocks and hurled abuse at council workers.

CONTROVERSY: Security keep watch over the area where trees are being cut back in Cairns CBD to move on the fruit bat colony. Picture: Stewart McLean

“Whilst we live in a democracy (and) we all have the right to express views, none of us have the right to abuse people and act in that way,” Cr Manning said.

“I think that’s a sad indictment of people who say they’re concerned about the environment and in fact be carrying on in that manner.”


Cr Manning said he was happy with how the dispersal program was progressing, and confirmed pruning on the Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort site would soon start.

CONTROVERSIAL: Tree pruning as part of Council's flying fox dispersal program.

“We will continue on until that job is completed and as we go ahead we will look at the issue of relocation and how we might encourage these flying foxes to take up roosts that are back on the mountains, in the mangroves or further out of town,” he said.

An estimated 15,000 animals live in the trees near the City Library, which will be trimmed up to 20 per cent in line with Heritage Protection approvals. Council is yet to disclose how severely the Novotel site will be pruned.


The bats’ dispersal from the CBD is being monitored by Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and a statement issued to the Cairns Post yesterday said the observed activities complied with council’s Code of Practice.

On Monday, a fallen juvenile bat sparked outrage among wildlife carers but both the EHP and council claimed the animal was found before the works began.

Council may resort to smoke and ultrasonic bat-repelling technology if tree pruning fails to drive the colony from urban areas. A frequency device has been trialled on a bat population at Brinsmead.

Parks and Leisure branch manager Brett Spencer said a resident had used ultrasonic technology on a “reasonably large colony” from an Edmonton creek system.

“We’ve been trialling the device in Brinsmead for about eight weeks with intermittent success,” Mr Spencer said.

CONTROVERSY: Police were called as protesters turned up attempting to disrupt tree trimming in Cairns CBD.

The pruning works are estimated to cost $40,000, which will be shared by Novotel.

Cairns and Far North Environment Centre director Angelika Ziehrl accused council of wasting money.

“A 2013 report for council details a number of problematic and costly attempts across Australia and notes that relocation has proven to require significant effort and expense, with varied outcomes,” she said.

“This same report shows that if the colony does move, most potential new sites are unsuitable,” she said.

“Other reviews have shown that in most cases the flying foxes moved less than 600m or were likely to return to the original roost site.

“This colony has been established for over 30 years, it is an important roost and breeding site and also a popular tourist attraction.”

Councillor Rob Pyne advocated for more maintenance and public awareness in the area rather than dispersal.

“If you support the flying fox as a tourism asset you will not want them moved on,” he said.

“If you don’t want them near your house or business, you will also not want them moved on.”

Pruning of the roosting trees will continue throughout the week, weather permitting.



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BatsRule!: Police called in as bat protesters in Cairns CBD let fly over council dispersal
Police called in as bat protesters in Cairns CBD let fly over council dispersal
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