While flying foxes are away

With most of Byron Shire’s large flying-fox population away for the winter, Council is working on a ‘Flying-improvement Project’ at Beech Drive in Suffolk Park to improve the vegetation and encourage the animals to camp away from their human neighbours when they return in November.

The three year project is funded by the NSW Environment Trust and will involve rehabilitation works at three of five camps Byron Shire manages under their Flying-fox Camp Management Plan.

“We’ve got a bush regeneration team in Suffolk Park now rehabilitating the flying-foxes camp areas and creating new and attractive areas for them that will hopefully be irresistible and become their new homes – further away from the neighbours,” Council’s Biodiversity and Agriculture Project Officer Peter Boyd said.

“Yes flying-foxes are noisy, they can smell and can be difficult neighbours to live near – and they’ve suffered some pretty bad local press lately, with a species of horseshoe bat in China being blamed as the origin of the coronavirus.

“But the truth is that research has told us that Australian flying-foxes do not spread the COVID19 virus and they are vital to our ecology.

“Without Byron Shire’s two species of flying-foxes, the endangered Grey headed and the Black Flying-fox, we would not have the trees our koalas are so dependent on, as it’s the flying-foxes that pollinate the flowers to produce the seeds for the new koala food trees.

Many of these trees even produce more nectar at night to encourage the flying-foxes to visit, feeding from flower to flower, pollinating as they go,” Mr Boyd said.

In addition to the Beech Drive flying-fox camp in Suffolk Park, Council also closely monitors camps at Butler St and down town in Middleton St in Byron Bay, Paddys Creek in Bangalow and along the Brunswick River at Mullumbimby.

Four of the Shire’s five camps will be empty and quiet over the next few months giving their human neighbours a little respite. The flying-foxes camping at Middleton St generally stay over the winter months.

“We don’t know where they go, whether it’s the cold that makes them seek warmer weather or food supplies that need to be found over the winter months away from here, but they will back in all of the camps in November.

“We do know that they don’t necessarily stick together and we do know individuals may travel the length of the Australian east coast a number of times in their lifetime.

“It’s for this reason that all of the Grey-headed Flying- foxes in Australia are counted as one population. One research scientist compared a flying-fox camp to a train station. They come, they go, they hang around for a while and they go again – but we don’t know where,” Mr Boyd said.

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