Local Attitudes toward flying foxes header picture


Old timers report that flying foxes used this area as a roost from early last century.  Aboriginal tradition refers to the presence of flying foxes here before that too.  

In earlier times the animals had a choice of several campsites.  They could use areas in turn, allowing each area times for regrowth of worn trees.  The alternative sites have now been cleared for farming so now Bellingen Island is used constantly.   In times past bats were here only intermittently, leaving The Island empty of bats for stretches of, say, ten years.  Also, areas of The Island have been cleared, reducing the area where flying foxes can roost.  Thus they may be packed more tightly than they might choose and cause heavier wear on the trees.  

Due to these two changes made by humans the vegetation of The Island gets regrettably hard wear now but these trees are adapted to such wear and are not killed by it.  Locals worry about damage to the vegetation but it is weeds and storms combined that do the worst damage to existing trees, choking and breaking them, and uprooting them completely.

 

stags and bats


Before the mid eighties it was official policy to treat flying foxes as a pest species and to try to remove them.  Shooting was encouraged and even subsidised.  The local council spent money on noise-making equipment in an attempt to scare the bats away.  These efforts were ineffective and also were strongly opposed by many people in the community.

In 1985 policy in Bellingen changed.  Disturbance stopped.  Many people recognized the essential part that the flying foxes play in the forest – for Australian hardwood species they are more important for survival than the birds and the bees.  In 2001 both the state and the federal governments listed Greyheaded Flying foxes as vulnerable.  It is recognized that these, our major species in Bellingen, are valuable animals threatened by extinction.

The general public in Bellingen is far better informed and far wiser about flying foxes than is usual in the general rural population.  Many neighbours of The Island enjoy being able to watch the bats regularly and have chosen to live next to them.

Flying Fox Face

All photographs and text are subject to copyright Vivien Jones ©2000

E-mail: viv@bellingen.com
Phone: 02 6655 2213

The flying foxes
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