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Long-term approach needed for urban flying fox colonies


"We don't really know how many times a single bat might be dispersed from one site to the next to the next," Phil Shaw said. (Peter Gunders - ABC Southern Qld)

An environmental consultant says the current practice of dispersing flying fox colonies in urban areas isn't enough.

Phil Shaw from Avisure, a company that deals with bird strikes at airports, says more and more of his time is being spent dealing with flying foxes in urban areas.

He says the amount of urban flying fox dispersals in the last two years outnumbers those of the whole previous decade.

Toowoomba Regional Council has recently conducted a dispersal program in a Kearneys Spring park and in the town of Pittsworth.

"Dispersals are not easy," he said.

"There's only certain times where it's ethical to do dispersals given there could be young bats in a camp.
"If you disperse from one site it's possible they'll try to come back, or you may splinter the camp to multiple sites.

He says culling isn't effective either.

"Flying foxes are like backpackers. They'll rove around from camp to camp," he said.

"Some might stay a month, some might stay six months. The ones you see today are not necessarily the ones you see tomorrow.

"By knocking a few out of this camp on this day will not necessarily give you the result you are after in the long run."

Mr Shaw says his work has increased by a "huge amount" since the state government allowed the 'as of rights' permission for councils to disperse flying foxes in urban footprint areas.

"Sure, there are circumstances where the risk is sufficient to warrant the removal of bats from a certain area," he said.

"But we've got to keep the opportunities for dispersal to a few occasions and places that really need it because they are tricky to disperse."

Mr Shaw wants to see an holistic approach to living with flying foxes.

"I have seen people in high levels of distress living near significant flying fox roosts," he said.

"Destroying their washing and the landscape and the pools. I do sympathise.

"But they have a particularly important role to play in pollination and reseeding our forests.

"We have to live with these animals in certain circumstances."

He says the answer could be wildlife corridors and areas designated for flying fox colonies.

"This could be a 30 to 40-year vision," he said.

"We obviously need large tracts of land to be set aside with that in mind."

He also says more research needs to be done in creating the right habitat to attract the flying foxes.

"There's not a lot of research out there that would help us create the perfect and ideal habitat and be certain they would definitely go there. But we've got to have a go at it," he said.

Mr Shaw says it is an issue for all three levels of government.

"We have to accept urban development is going to proceed," he said.

"There are fewer and fewer areas for the bats to be that is suitable.

"We've got to come up with solutions about what we want it to look like in 50 years.

"At the moment all we are doing is being reactionary."

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