Do people ever have the right to wage war against another species?
In the state of Queensland, vulnerable flying foxes are under assault. Threatened even in their maternity colonies – where the pups are born and raised with care to flying age –these vegetarian native mega bats are now being pushed towards extinction. Flying foxes are mammals and their incredible maternal instincts bind mothers and their offspring closely together. Mothers will grieve as they search over many days for lost babies.
Habitat destruction, persecution at roost sites, officially sanctioned and illegal shooting, trapping in backyard fruit tree netting, snaring on barbed wire, or electrocution on power lines. Along with starvation events and extreme weather, these threats all combine to undermine the long-term survival of our largest bats.
Flying foxes have been a part of Australia’s night skies for millions of years. In the language of biodiversity, they are ‘keystone species’, having evolved an important symbiotic relationship with our forests. The Australian Government’s own environment department says flying foxes play a vital role in keeping our ecosystems in good health, pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds as they forage on the nectar and pollen of eucalypts and other flora, and on the fruits of rainforest trees and vines.
Although officially protected native wildlife in Australia, a handover of powers to local councils by the Queensland Government is seeing the brutal dispersal of flying fox camps at any time of the year, including maternity colonies. Inevitably, babies not yet able to fly face harm or even death through injury or starvation.
Animal welfare is being cast aside. Human animosity, fear and misunderstanding have reached a new crescendo, with many people being alarmed and desensitized by inflammatory media coverage and political populism. Meanwhile, a small band of specialist bat caregivers pick up after the carnage. And many more people watch on in horror … crying out for better information about health and other issues… all desperately seeking a workable solution for bats and people to live in harmony.
Dispersals rarely work and merely force survivors to find new roosting sites, to face new confrontations. Defenseless babies are isolated from their mothers, which are then denied the opportunity to retrieve their pups. Highly aggressive methods are being deployed, such as helicopters, water cannons, screeching sirens, paint ball guns,fireworks, acrid smoke,even noisy mowers, chain saws and brush cutters. The horror and fear for those unable to escape is unimaginable.
Will our forests continue to resonate with the calls of these environmentally essential fauna? Or will ignorance and failing government policies cause our bat populations to disappear like so many other species of mammals before them?
If Queensland can’t look after ecologically valuable protected species like flying foxes, how can it be trusted with the rest of our precious environment?
Help us save our flying foxes.
Bats. Protect them or lose them