Loss of forest habitat from the devastating bushfires continues to impact flying-fox populations on the Mid North Coast

Assistant Flying-fox Coordinator and WIRES carer Rianna Carmody with Cal. Photo: Rianna Carmody

 

SOME people turn the page quickly when they see a photo of a flying-fox, perhaps with a shudder.

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But others recognise that these intelligent mammals are vital in maintaining what we love about our natural environment, and can be quite endearing when you get to know them.

Rianna Carmody, Assistant Flying-fox Coordinator and carer with WIRES Mid North Coast said, “Flying-foxes keep our native forests healthy through pollination and seed dispersal.”

“If we lose the flying-foxes we lose the trees, and from there we will lose many other native animals.”

While local flying-foxes were able to fly away from the last bushfire event, their natural food sources of native eucalyptus and hardwood blossoms were decimated.

This is of special significance right now because it’s birthing season for the flying-fox pups.

“After the bushfires wiped out a lot of their food sources, we are expecting to see many malnourished bats come into care,” Rianna told News Of The Area.

“A flying-fox mother’s ability to produce enough milk for her pup may be compromised and this is when orphaned flying foxes come into care after being found on the ground, too weak to cling onto mum anymore.”

“If you see a bat alone during the day in a strange place, it needs assistance – please call WIRES immediately.”

Unfortunately, as local residents may recall, flying-foxes were in trouble even before the bushfires.

Rianna said, “From July 2019 we had a mass starvation event before the bushfires, all along the east coast of NSW and QLD.”

“Things that were supposed to be flowering weren’t, and we were thrown into a heartbreaking six months for the flying-foxes and other blossom-eating wildlife like possums and birds.”

People concerned about the welfare of these animals did what they could to help.

“WIRES received hundreds of calls during this time, many of which were about flying-foxes in people’s backyards during the day, something that is very unusual.”

“Many locals made “fruit kebabs” for the bats, and often the next morning the fruit was gone and the bat had left, now having enough strength to fly away,” Rianna said.

She outlined other ways in which we can help all wildlife including bats, such as hanging ties or reflective discs along the top strand of any barbed wire fencing especially around dams and lakes, and ensuring netting over fruit trees has weave you can’t poke a finger through and is pulled tight and secured to the ground so wildlife doesn’t become trapped under it.

“Barbed wire and netting entanglement are the rescues we attend the most,” Rianna said.

“But one of the biggest problems around the Coffs Coast is discarded fishing lines wrapped over powerlines and trees, snagging birds and wildlife on hooks.”

“These rescues usually take hours in the hot sun with loads of equipment and lots of brainstorming.”

“We have had people in canoes with a small blade strapped to the end of a bamboo stick to try and reach the trapped wildlife, and most often than not the animal is too badly injured and can’t recover.”

“Please, if you see discarded fishing line or netting, pick it up and throw it out.”

Rianna added, “There is no risk of catching anything from a bat as long as you don’t handle it.”

“Call WIRES immediately on 1300 094 737 and a trained and vaccinated volunteer will firstly phone you for details and then attend your property to rescue the animal.”

 

By Monika KOZLOVSKIS

 

Black flying-fox Sunny, found on a flyscreen in Toormina and now ready for release. Photo: Rianna Carmody

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