‘Bat tornado’ takes over Aussie town
A "BAT tornado" has taken over the far north Queensland town of Ingham, reaching "biblical plague proportions".
"It just seems to me that every bat in Australia is now in Ingham," Mayor of Hinchinbrook Council Raymon Jayo told A Current Affair in a segment on Wednesday night.
The animals - also known as flying foxes or fruit bats - now outnumber the town's population by hundreds of thousands.
"It's like a bat tornado over the town," Ingham resident Adam Kaurila said.
The town's Botanical Gardens have been completely overrun with swarms, with some trees so full of bats that they're buckling under the weight.
The colony is growing at a rapid rate, moving into the trees surrounding the local kindergarten and primary school, concerning a growing group of parents who fear for the safety of their children.
Adam and Susanne Kaurila, who have two daughters, are considering pulling them out of the school for fear of their children being scratched by a diseased bat or getting sick due to exposure.
"They're not stepping a foot in that ground until something is, we know that is, being done," Susanne said.
Nearly 250 kilometres away in the town of Charters Towers, one boy knows all too well about the risks of being exposed to the animals.
The town has been overrun by thousands of bats for years, causing the local park to permanently close due to safety risks.
Cody Ruge said he and his mother Renee were listening to music when a bat "just drops out of the tree and like hits the table and as it was coming up it must have scratched me or something".
He was taken to hospital after he was attacked to receive a vaccine, which required him to have 11 injections.
The biggest concern when it comes to being attacked by a diseased bat is the possibility of contracting lyssavirus, a rabies-like disease contracted through bites and scratches.
In Australia, there have been confirmed cases of bat lyssavirus in humans, all three of which were fatal.
While bats do carry diseases, these are only transferred via scratches or bites, so the community risk level is low, said Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland's Des Boyland.
He said the animals are vital to our ecosystem, and that dispersing bats can be costly and "rarely very successful".
Bats are a protected species under Queensland law, meaning the councils in both Ingham and Charters Towers are limited in how they can try and move the animals on.
While nonlethal methods like smoke, noise and light can be used, these methods can't be put into place when the bats are breeding.
"There's four different species and because they all have young at different times, there's hardly a window of opportunity when we can interact with these bats to try and move them on," Councillor Jayo said.
Local federal member for Charters Towers Bob Katter said he'd been trying to move the bats on from the area for years, and if it were up to him, he'd "be down here with a shotgun".
"There comes a point where I think breaking the law really becomes 'dogging it', as we say in North Queensland. And I think that point has probably been reached," he said.
In a statement provided to A Current Affair, the Department of Environment and Science (DES) said they were "working to support the Hinchinbrook Shire Council and Charters Towers Regional Council to help them manage flying-fox roosts in their council areas".