Protection of vulnerable native flying foxes against attack by community and government

This petition is to Ministers Hunt, Speakman, Constance, and Councillor Brown to decisively end the persecution of the native flying fox colony in Bateman's Bay, and ensure that they are protected in accordance with Federal law due to their status as a Protected Species on the road to extinction.

Key reasons for this are as follows, and are outlined in greater detail below.

  • Researchers suggest that the species will become extinct in 25 – 100 years.
  • The Bateman's Bay colony represents 20% of the ENTIRE SPECIES of grey-headed flying foxes.
  • These little mammals are posing no health and safety risks to human beings. The persecution is motivated solely by the inconvenience of several hundred people.  Relocation is an expensive option doomed to failure.
  • Of the seventeen colony relocation attempts, sixteen have been unilateral failures. Most had greater chances of success than this attempt would have. Noting that relocation has, perhaps, a five percent chance of success, it is not a sound financial investment for tax payers.

Because flying foxes have been declared a 'vulnerable species', local and state governments need a mandate to interfere with them from the Federal Government to make an exception to the 'Environment Biodiversity and Conservation Act' 1999 (EPBC).  Substantial penalties of up to $8.5 million or up to seven years imprisonment apply for undertaking an activity to which the EPBC applies without approval.

This level of protection is required because the extinction of this species is expected within the next 25 - 100 years.  The Bateman's Bay colony represents 20% of the entire species of grey-headed flying foxes. I understand that when the people of Bateman's Bay look out their windows, they see what seems to be a thriving species. But the fact is that 30% of the species died between 1989 - 1998 because of exactly what the Bateman's Bay community is pressuring politicians to do - displace them from their habitat. 

Many more have died since then, we just haven't conducted a survey to confirm the data. We know that since 1989 they have been dying at an accelerated rate. The demise of this species is a direct result of people on the east coast of Australia trying to “move them on”. This is what the actual result of “moving them on” is.  It is not “relocation” is it “extermination”.

The following is an excerpt from the report 'Review of past flying-fox dispersal actions between 1990-2013'. Prepared by Billie Roberts and Peggy Eby June 2013.  It outlines the failure of the majority of the attempts at relocation, most of which were more promising than the current Bateman's Bay proposal.

In all cases, dispersed animals did not abandon the local area. In 16 of the 17 cases, dispersals did not reduce the number of flying-foxes in a local area. Dispersed animals did not move far (in approx. 63 per cent of cases the animals only moved <600m from the original site, contingent on the distribution of available vegetation). In 85 per cent of cases, new camps were established nearby.  In all cases, it was not possible to predict where replacement camps would form. Conflict was often not resolved. In 71 per cent of cases conflict was still being reported either at the original site or within the local area years after the initial dispersal actions.  Repeat dispersal actions were generally required (all cases except extensive vegetation removal). The financial costs of all dispersal attempts were high ranging from tens of thousands of dollars for vegetation removal to hundreds of thousands for active dispersals (e.g. using noise, smoke etc)".

The inconvenience of a few hundred human beings seems like a poor reason to advocate an action supporting an extinction level response. They are not dangerous. Or malicious. Their only crime is being inconvenient. I don't think the species deserves to die because they have inconvenienced a few hundred human beings. 

I have argued with people for hours on end in recent weeks, trying to dispel misconceptions about flying foxes carrying rabies, ebola, and other airborne disease. As I am sure you are aware, flying foxes may carry Lyssavirus and / or Hendra virus. Lyssavirus is only contractable via exchange of body fluids, so unless someone finds an injured bat, handles it with bare hands, gets bitten by the infected bat, and the bite breaks the skin, the chances of a human being contracting the Lyssavirus are extremely low. In fact, only three people have ever contracted Lyssavirus in Australia (one case each in 1996, 1998, and 2013).

Likewise, Hendra virus is very, very rare. It is impossible for humans to contract the disease directly from bats. Infected bats must communicate the disease to horses, and then infected horses must deliver the virus to humans. Only seven cases of Hendra virus have ever been reported in humans in Australia. Australians are statistically more likely to be kicked to death by cows than to become sick due to flying foxes. They are also more likely to be killed by icicles, Christmas trees, and beds. That is how low the level of risk associated with flying foxes really is.

They are what is called in ecological terms a "keystone species", meaning that other species (both plant and animal) in this ecosystem rely on them. Extinction of the flying foxes means far-reaching and negative consequences for the entire Eurobodalla habitat. Not just Bateman's Bay. 

"Flying foxes are intelligent and remarkable. These unique animals help regenerate our forests and keep ecosystems healthy through pollination and seed dispersal. They are a migratory and nomadic 'keystone' species; meaning a species that many other species of plants and animals rely upon for their survival and well-being.  Tragically, populations of flying foxes across Queensland, NSW and Victoria are in decline.  Both the Grey-headed flying fox and Spectacled flying fox have declined by at least 95% in the past century, with massive losses in the past 30 years. Some researchers believe they could be functionally extinct by 2050".  (Animals Australia.org)

At best, the most humane proposal currently advocates using loud music and smoke. The same tactics used against the ill-fated incursion on cult leader, paedophile, and arms dealer David Koresh. More violent methods being suggested include guns and fire. Do our harmless native species seriously deserve that treatment? What could they possibly have done to deserve it?

We are quick to condemn other cultures for driving their unique animals to the point of extinction. Tiger penis powder, shark fin soup, elephant tusks, and rhino horns are all prizes that are leading to the extinction of valuable species. But the chief cause of  global species extinction is not hunting or poaching. It is habitat destruction. The same habitat destruction that is being proposed in Bateman's Bay.

This is not just a matter for a small community of people to decide. This is a matter for all Australians who care about the preservation of a species that was here long before we were. Once they are gone, they are gone from everywhere. Forever. This should be a concern of every person in the world that cares about the continuation of diverse life on this planet. It is a far broader concern than the people that live near the Bateman's Bay water gardens.

The grey-headed flying fox is a species found almost nowhere else in the world. This species is in peril. And there are only two sides to this issue; it is very clear, there is no grey area: you are either advocating the extinction of vulnerable little native animals, or you are allowing them to live in peace in their natural ecosystem.

Human beings have choices. They can take up the local council's generous offer of borrowed pressure washers etc. Hang laundry under cover. Cover cars with tarps, or park elsewhere. Ride a bicycle. Move house. Try to be mature and compassionate. Humans are blessed with an infinite number of choices and the power to make their choices into reality. The bats have one choice: rely on the pity of human beings, or face certain and permanent annihilation.

Persecuting these little mammals is unconscionable. I believe that ethically it is indefensible. How would this be viewed in a hundred years time, when people look back on why the species died out, and there are no more flying foxes left in Australian skies? We killed them because there was some poo on our cars..... How will people look upon the people that were party to that catastrophic decision? Please, don't make the extinction of the grey-headed flying fox your legacy, and the legacy that we leave behind for generations to come.  Bats don't have choices. You do. Choose with wisdom and compassion. 

This petition will be delivered to:
  • Minister for Health and Sport
    Greg Hunt MP
  • Minister Greg Hunt (Minister for the Environment)
  • Minister Mark Speakman (NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage)
  • Counsellor Lindsay Brown (Mayor of the Eurobodalla Shire)
  • Minister Andrew Constance (MP Member for Bega)


Lucy Norman started this petition with a single signature, and now has 6,056 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.