Protecting our Grey-headed Flying-foxes
Published on 16 February 2022
Council is collaborating with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) to ensure the protection of Grey-headed Flying-foxes in the Shoalhaven Local Government Area. This species is listed as Vulnerable under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Grey-headed Flying-foxes are generally found within 200 km of the eastern coast of Australia, from Rockhampton in Queensland to Adelaide in South Australia. Within the Shoalhaven, this species has recently been reported to have re-formed a camp within Berry, where they perform a critical role in the pollination and seed dispersal of locally endemic forest and woodland vegetation communities. They are also known to occur in Bomaderry and Kangaroo Valley.
They can fly long distances each night (up to 50 kilometres) and distribute seeds, collected from foraging, throughout the vegetation of the South Coast. Accordingly, the Grey-headed Flying-fox plays an essential keystone species role in the regeneration and recovery of these areas and increases the longevity of the important roles that such vegetation has in the landscape.
Dr Michael Roberts, Manager Environmental Services, Shoalhaven City Council stated, “The management of flying-fox and human interactions and the education of the community on the perceived issues surrounding their presence near human occupation is imperative. The community of Berry have collaborated with Shoalhaven City Council and DPE to manage this interaction. This has included strategic foraging habitat removal, funding of pool covers and high-pressure hoses, whilst preserving the presence and habitat occupation of this species.”
“Co-inhabitation between humans and flying-foxes can be challenging, but disturbing day time camps causes them to spread, fragment and form sub-camps and thus, ultimately leads to a greater level of human-wildlife conflict. DPE is currently investigating allegations that camps have been disturbed during day light hours, which has reportedly led to increased flying, swirling and screeching activity. These are indications of camp fragmentation and may increase the likelihood juvenile flying-fox mortality.”
Harming a vulnerable species under Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, such as the Grey-headed Flying-fox, can result in a $440,000 fine for a corporation and $88,000 fine for an individual. Penalties also exist under Commonwealth legislation.
Flying-foxes typically arrive in the Shoalhaven area early summer and depart in early winter, but this depends on food availability in other areas of their known distribution, as well as the level of disturbance that the camp may be exposed to.
“It is very important to note that the distribution of this species and impacts on them within this entire area, such as SE QLD and northern NSW, is key to gaining a more comprehensive understanding of their local ecology, and in particular urban densities, colonisation and nomadic behaviours in the Shoalhaven,” Dr Roberts said.
The Berry Flying-fox camp was recently the subject of heat stress incidents and many hundreds of them died. Council is working closely with DPE and local wildlife carers (Wildlife Rescue South Coast) to finalise a response plan to support residents and the flying-foxes should another heat stress incident occur in the camp.
Community members that detect injured or sick Grey-headed Flying-foxes are strongly urged to contact Wildlife Rescue South Coast immediately on 0418 427 214
Residents are also asked to report any disturbance of the Grey-headed Flying-fox camps to the Environment Line on 131 555
Take a look at the Flying-fox Newsletter on Council’s website.