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Summary of Batemans Bay flying fox camp draft dispersal plan May 2016 Megabat Fruit Bat

The items in this summary are from the Batemans Bay flying fox camp draft dispersal plan, from the indicated parts and pages.
If you are interested in more information about any of these items, please read the draft plan:
Jump to a section of this summary:

Part 1: executive summary, current flying fox camps, activity & impacts

Read more on pages 1-7 of the draft plan:
  • In recent months, the south coast of NSW has experienced heavy flowering of native trees that are an important seasonal food source for the grey headed flying foxes. As the amount of nectar became more available, flying foxes migrated south in search of food.
  • Recently weekly monitoring indicates that the camp size at Batemans Bay has peaked and is starting to decline, in line with the flowering season.
  • Dispersal is being considered with the long-term aim to reduce conflict between people and flying foxes in Batemans Bay. However, the dispersal process is likely to result in an increase in adverse impacts and risks for people and flying foxes in the short term
  • It is important that the community is well informed of the potential risks and factors affecting the likelihood of success when considering if dispersal should proceed.
  • It is expected that the risks and costs would be substantially lower if dispersal is attempted at a time when the camp is much smaller in size and outside of sensitive periods in the flying fox life cycle. Early February would be a more suitable time to commence a trial dispersal as the camp size is typically much smaller at this time and juvenile flying foxes are likely to be independent.
  • The risk of disease (e.g Australian Bat Lyssavirus, Hendra virus) for people, pets and livestock is extremely small: to minimise the risk that could be associated with being bitten or scratched, untrained people should not handle sick, injured or dead bats.

Part 2: flying fox species status, legislation, licences, & approvals

Read more on pages 8-10 of the draft plan:
  • Grey headed flying foxes are currently protected under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife ACT 1974, are listed as vulnerable to extinction under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). They are also listed as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
  • The species threatened status reflects the significant and ongoing decline of the national population size and threats to its habitat.
  • Widespread vegetation clearance across Australia has led to a dramatic decline in available roosting and foraging habitat and the overall population of grey headed flying foxes.
  • A report by the CSIRO (Westacott et al 2015) states that the national GHFF populations is approximately 680,000 (+/-164,500)
  • The current Batemans Bay camp size encompasses the Water Gardens and habitat around Catalina and is estimated to comprise substantially more than 100,000 flying foxes.
  • Flying foxes are highly mobile and, because of this, all camps are considered to be part of the same dynamic national population. A large number of flying foxes at one camp at one time needs to be taken in the context that another camp at the same time may have no or few flying foxes.
  • The Batemans Bay camp is recognized as being ‘nationally significant’ because it contained more than 10,000 flying foxes in more than one year in the last ten years.
  • Actions that may have a significant impact on one or more Matters of National Environmental Significance [which include grey headed flying foxes] need referral to the Department of the Environment.
  • Any action that is likely to have significant impact on grey headed flying foxes must not commence until the Federal Minister for the Environment gives approval. In making a decision, the Minister will consider if the proposed action will be conducted in accordance with best practice mitigation standards.

Part 3: dispersal methods, success criteria, potential habitats, timing & cost estimates

Read more on pages 11-17 of the draft plan:
  • Total dispersal cost is estimated at $6.2m (not including the suggested contingency of $1million). A breakdown of estimates costs is on pages 13-17 of the draft dispersal plan.
  • The following table provides a summary of estimated costs, comparing the costs of the draft dispersal plan’s timing to start stage 1 in May-June with the estimated costs of a recommended alternative dispersal in February.
    This table is not part of the plan (which is focused on the current time frame, not February), but is information that EcoLogical has provided to Council:
Stage
Current cost
February cost
Stage 1: Approvals, preparation, recruitment and baseline monitoring
$135,300
$57,000
Stage 2: Initial dispersal and monitoring
$3,420,800
$436,000
Stage 3: Prevent Batemans Bay camp from re-establishing (3+ years)
$2,658,000
$1,020,000
  • Council does not have adequate in-house resources or expertise in dispersal management, so would need to engage additional personnel to assist.
  • The dispersal plan requires 70 personnel. There is a strong risk that the stage 1 timeframe will not be met due to difficulties in recruiting adequate numbers of suitable personnel to manage the dispersal.
  • Field supervisors and at least half of the field team personnel will need to have been fully vaccinated for Lyssavirus as they will be working within the camp rather than on the edges and are more likely to come into direct contact with flying foxes. The vaccination program usually takes about six weeks.
  • The optimum time for any dispersal is when the flying fox numbers are at their lowest, and this would also greatly reduce the resourcing requirement. An alternative approach would be to reschedule the initial dispersal to February 2017 when the camp is likely to be much smaller.
  • To ensure best practice, the dispersal would be implemented in a manner consistent with the mitigation standards required under the EPBC Act Policy:
    • The action must not occur if the camp contains females that are in the late stages of pregnancy or have dependent young that cannot fly on their own (this is the most sensitive period in the flying fox life cycle and is typically during September and October)
    • The action must not occur during or immediately after climatic extremes, or during a period of significant food stress.
    • Disturbance must be carried out using non-lethal means.
    • Disturbance activities must be limited to a maximum of 2.5 hours in any 12 hour period, preferably at or before sunrise.
    • The action must be supervised by a person with knowledge and experience relevant to managing flying foxes and their habitat, who can identify dependent young and is aware of climatic extremes and food stress events. This person must make an assessment of the relevant conditions and advise the proponent whether the activity can go ahead consistent with these standards.
    • The action must not involve the clearing of all vegetation. Sufficient vegetation must be retained to support the maximum number of flying-foxes ever recorded in the camp.
Potential habitat (pages 13-14):Thumbnail image of map of potential habitats for grey headed flying foxes in Batemans Bay.
  • Dispersal actions have never resulted in flying foxes moving to sites that are identified as a preferred ‘target’
  • The map on page 14 of the draft dispersal plan indicates the most likely areas that flying foxes would move to within 5 km of the existing camp, classified as:
    • ‘suitable’ habitat, ie. similar vegetation communities that are not close to built-up areas
    • ‘unsuitable’ habitat, ie. similar vegetation communities but inappropriate locations due to close proximity to residences, schools, etc
  • Click to enlarge this map of identified potential flying fox habitats in the Batemans Bay area (from page 14 of the draft dispersal plan)
  • If the dispersal action results in flying foxes moving to an unsuitable location, Council would need to take further action until the displaced animals are established in a suitable location.

Part 4: likely risks and mitigation measures

Read more on pages 18-23 of the draft plan:
  • Dispersal activities have unpredictable outcomes, are very costly, require ongoing commitment and maintenance, are often not successful and rarely achieve desirable outcomes for all stakeholders.
  • Dispersal often leads to flying fox stress, injuries or fatalities, and may lead to increased human and animal health risk, nuisance issues, or human/flying fox conflict at other sites.
  • A review of seventeen flying fox camp dispersal actions between 1990 and 2016 by Roberts and Eby (PDF, 533 KB) found that:
    • in all cases, dispersed animals did not abandon the local area
    • in 16 of the 17 cases, dispersals did not reduce the number of flying foxes in a local area
    • dispersed animals did not move far (in approximately 63% of cases the animals only moved less than 600 metres from the original site, contingent on the distribution of available vegetation). In 85% of cases, new camps were established nearby
    • in all cases, it was not possible to predict where replacement camps would form
    • conflict was often not resolved. In 71% of cases, conflict was still being reported either at the original site or within the local area year after the initial dispersal actions
    • repeat dispersal actions were generally required (all cases except extensive vegetation removal)
    • the financial costs of all dispersal attempts were high, ranging from tens of thousands of dollars for vegetation removal to hundreds of thousands for active dispersals
    • there were a few exceptions to these patterns, but they only occurred when there were abundant financial and human resources (eg Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne and Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney) and/or specific landscape characteristics
  • Some risks (table 4 on pages 19-23 of the draft plan) associated with dispersing the Batemans Bay camp include that:
    • if approvals and preparation (such as recruitment of 70 personnel) is not complete within the required timeframe, it is likely that the main phase of dispersal would fall when the female flying foxes are heavily pregnant and starting to give birth, a significant risk to the health and sustainability of the flying foxes
    • some residents may become frustrated with the process and timeframes and take unauthorised action. This creates a negative effect that would undermine the strategic action of a targeted dispersal and would expose residents to legal action
    • flying foxes will locate in nearby areas that are close to dwellings, schools, water supplies etc
    • dispersal actions will result in a longer period each morning when the flying foxes are flying and therefore may increase the risk of contact with power lines, potentially causing additional power outages and result in death or injury of flying foxes
    • residents may be adversely impacted by dispersal activities involving noise, smoke, lights early each morning and for a long time period, initially 8 weeks
    • the camp size naturally fluctuates and is likely that the camp will naturally reduce in size in the next few weeks/months, this has already started to happen

Part 5: ongoing monitoring, evaluation and reporting

Read more on pages 24-25 of the draft plan:
  • Monitoring during and after the dispersal action is expected to keep track of (among other things) potential impacts of dispersal in the region, recording flying fox behavior during management activities, and monitoring population, conditions of animals and presence of pregnant females or females with young.

Part 6: alternative actions

Read more on pages 26-27 of the draft plan:
  • The camp management plan reviewed 24 possible actions based on input from a range of flying fox experts, Council and agency staff and others involved in flying fox management.Further investigation would be needed to assess the feasibility of these alternative actions:
    • Install radar deterrents (trial proposed as part of this dispersal action)
    • Apply spray deterrents (trial proposed as part of this dispersal action)
    • Inflatable controls (trial proposed as part of this dispersal action)
    • Install sprinklers (this would not resolve issues related to fly-in and fly-out or foraging)
    • No action (taking no action would not address community concerns)
    • Expand delivery of targeted actions to support residents (targeted actions to date have generally been well received)
    • Reschedule dispersal (this would reduce the risk and expense, and would be more likely to be successful)
    • Nudging the camp further away from houses (this would have similar risks to dispersal in that disturbed flying foxes could move to a less desirable location)
    • Removing some vegetation to create a wider buffer (would have little impact on fly-in fly-out activities)
    • Cull flying foxes to reduce the numbers (not a viable option as it has never been proven successful in the long-term management of flying foxes. Licences/approvals required would not be granted by the Federal or State Governments for this action)
    • Sonar on rooftops (flying foxes are not sensitive to sonar, therefore would not be effective as a flying fox deterrent)

Part 7: references, maps monitoring the camp area

Read more on pages 28-36 of the draft plan
References for the draft dispersal plan:

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BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats: Summary of Batemans Bay flying fox camp draft dispersal plan May 2016 Megabat Fruit Bat
Summary of Batemans Bay flying fox camp draft dispersal plan May 2016 Megabat Fruit Bat
Summary of Batemans Bay flying fox camp draft dispersal plan May 2016 Megabat Fruit Bat
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