Grey-headed Flying Foxes
Flying foxes are mammals, like humans, and belong to the Order Chiroptera (meaning ‘hand-winged’).
Flying foxes play an important role in dispersing the pollen and fruit of many native trees, such as figs, palms, lilly-pillies and quandongs.
A number of commercially important species of tree only produce fresh nectar and pollen at night, and rely on night time visitors for pollination.
What's council doing?
- Council has recently completed a region-wide Species Management Plan for flying-foxes, which has been approved by the State Government.
- Council facilitates workshops for horse owners to mitigate the risk of Hendra virus (run by BioSecurity Queensland).
There are three species of flying fox that occur in South-East Queensland, all belonging to the genus Pteropus:
- Black Flying Fox (Pteropus alecto)
- Grey-headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)
- Little Red Flying Fox (Pteropus scapulatus)
All three species are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992, and Grey-headed Flying Foxes are listed as a vulnerable species nationally.
Problems for fruit growers
Flying foxes may present a problem for fruit growers in rural areas due to destructive behaviour. Many techniques used to control flying foxes, such as the use of electric grids, are lethal to animals and illegal.
The use of full-exclusion netting on orchard farms may be an effective, non-lethal tool to exclude flying foxes, although bats and other wildlife could potentially become trapped in nets. The use of shade cloths, fruit bags and framed enclosures are the best options to ensure protection of fruit as well as wildlife.
Within urban areas, flying fox camps can concern residents living nearby. With ever changing landscapes, animals are becoming increasingly dependent on flowering and fruiting trees grown in backyards.
In the past, attempts to re-locate flying fox camps have been expensive and have often led to camps being established in other unwanted areas.
Flying foxes and human disease
Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL) is closely related to the rabies virus. The best protection against being exposed to the virus is to avoid handling flying foxes.
A bat bite, scratch or mucous membrane exposure to bat saliva is necessary to transmit the virus. There is no risk of catching ABL from bats flying overhead, contact with bat urine or faeces or from fruit they may have eaten.
More information: Queensland Health
Hendra virus can cause disease in horses but only rarely in humans. It can be transmitted from flying fox to horse, horse to horse, and horse to human.
Flying foxes are a natural reservoir for Hendra virus. Flying foxes do not show any signs of illness when infected with Hendra virus.
Although Hendra virus infection is periodically present in flying fox populations across Australia, the likelihood of horses becoming infected is considered very low.
More information: BioSecurity Queensland
Flying foxes and the Cocos Palm
The Cocos Palm is an exotic plant species, introduced to Australia for it's tropical look, fast growth and ease of propagation.
Cocos Palms may represent a problem for flying foxes feeding on their seeds. Due to the shape of seeds they may become lodged behind canine teeth, usually in juvenile animals. The bat is unable to expel the seed and ultimately dies from dehydration and starvation.
Additionally, due to the hardness of seeds they may also contribute to premature wearing of flying fox teeth therefore shortening their life span. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that Cocos seeds are abundant in Brisbane and animals may become unnaturally dependent on them during times of drought.