NOT MOVING: Flying foxes when disturbed can create splinter camps in urban areas.
NOT MOVING: Flying foxes when disturbed can create splinter camps in urban areas. Contributed

Science backs stance on flying foxes

NOOSA mayor Tony Wellington has seized on a Sunshine Coast Daily feature by two scientists to justify his council's refusal to try to move on flying foxes in urban areas like Wallace Park.

Cr Wellington said the article was telling "because it makes very clear that bat dispersals don't work and are highly likely to generate increased problems".

The joint article by Justin Welbergen, a senior lecturer in animal ecology at Western Sydney University, and Peggy Eby, adjunct senior lecturer in ecosystem science at the University of New South Wales, pointed out that such interventions shift the problem elsewhere.

"There is now ample evidence to show that dispersals are extremely costly and can exacerbate the very human-wildlife conflict that they aim to resolve," they wrote.

"Most dispersals result in the flying foxes returning to the original roost as soon as the dispersal program ends, because naive new individuals continue to arrive from elsewhere.

"Overcoming this can take months or years of repeated daily dispersal.

"Other dispersals result in flying foxes establishing new roosts a few hundred metres away, typically within the same urban environment in locations that we cannot control.

"This risks shifting the problem to previously unaffected members of a community and to other communities nearby."

They said while flying foxes are often portrayed as noisy pests, they serve our economic interest by providing irreplaceable pollination and seed-dispersal services for free.

"What's more, those same bats that annoy people during the day work tirelessly at night to maintain the health of our fragmented forests and natural ecosystems.

"So it is in our national interest to manage conflict at urban roosts by using approaches that balance community concerns with environmental considerations.

"To be considered successful, a dispersal should permanently reduce conflict to a level that is acceptable to the community without causing significant harm to the animals."

The scientists said dispersals are currently implemented at the local council level with little or no monitoring of the impacts in or outside the immediately affected area.

"This makes it hard to assess whether they have been successful."

Cr Wellington said: "Research has clearly shown that dispersals do not remove animals from the local area, almost never remove them from the target colony site, and frequently end up splintering the camps thus increasing the number of residents affected.

"Noosa Council is continuing to garner best practice advice and acting upon that advice. If there was a permanent, legal and successful solution, council would have taken it.

"However the problem is not so readily resolved."

The mayor said the Sunshine Coast Council's claims of a successful Maroochydore flying fox camp dispersal were premature given the animals "generally take a few weeks to recolonise a camp following such dispersals".