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Plea for a little flying fox love


AS pockets of residents across the Sunshine Coast work themselves into a lather about the bat “problem”, one Tewantin environmentalist loves their presence in her backyard.

Marie-Louise Sarjeant became fascinated by the creatures after watching the SBS-NITV documentary, Flying Foxes – the Wings of the Night, by indigenous broadcaster Wiruungg Dunggiir.

She is fearful we are fast losing a sense of the connectivity that exists in nature which is fundamental to the survival of whole ecosystems.

Ms Sarjeant says at the end of the day lip service is paid to environmental consideration with planning schemes more focused on development opportunities.

As a consequence suburbia’s encroachment on the natural environment creates conflicts now being witnessed across the Coast.

Flying foxes on the move at dusk on the Sunshine Coast.contributed

Ms Sarjeant runs the Connect 2 Wildlife 4 Environment Facebook page which aims to educate people about the ecosystem.

She says without bats to pollinate eucalyptus trees there would be no habitat for koalas.

“People need to realise this,’’ Ms Sarjeant said.

“The bats used to be on Weyba Rd near the river but since they built the new road into Noosa they are now at Wallace Park near the library.

“They don’t stay long. They feed on the trees in flower and move on. They are quite stunning.

“I love having them in the garden and hear their domestic squabbles.

“But there are a lot of people who don’t like wildlife, period. They move here then complain. I moved here for Noosa’s flora and fauna preservation.’’

Sunshine Coast Environment Council campaign spokesperson Narelle McCarthy said the council was providing well-rounded information to people and had made clear there was no guarantees the mammals could be moved on.

Ms McCarthy said illegal dispersals in recent days by some residents had been distressing.

She said council officers had not been supported by councillors in their recommendation against official dispersal attempts which have drawn significant funds from the environmental levy to little effect.

Ms McCarthy said SCEC acknowledged the discomfort of residents. She said a renewed focus on research was welcomed as was the vegetation work that has been carried out by the council.

Fruit bats (flying foxes) are essential to the pollination of native trees and the dispersal of seed. They also help keep the mosquito population under control.

The creatures can number anywhere from 50,000 to one million in a 50km radius of Brisbane and have adapted to live within the capital, feasting on its parks and gardens and using the river as a night time highway.

They hear at the same level of humans but have heightened levels of sight and smell and have a vocabulary of 25 identified sounds.

Smell is the issue from the stench of faeces and urine when they are in concentrated numbers and also from scent glands which emit individual smells recognisable by the cluster they inhabit.

Their brains are similar to primates and wings have the structure of our hands.

Flying foxes can fly at speeds up to 30kmh and will fly as far as 50km in a night of foraging.

Hanging upside down during the day conserves strength and is possible because of two design features, a no return valve in the heart and tendons that clamp when relaxed allowing them to hold on effortlessly.

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