BAD RAP: Grey-headed flying foxes settle in for the night.
BAD RAP: Grey-headed flying foxes settle in for the night.

The good, the bad and the 'batty'

A SMALL group gathered just before dusk waiting expectantly for the flying fox 'fly past' at Cooran.

The mass event did not eventuate, but many flying foxes did set out on their evening foraging trip.

World renowned flying fox and bat expert Dr Les Hall was the main attraction at the event organised and sponsored by Noosa Regional Council, Sunshine Coast Bat Rescue and Noosa Landcare.

Dr Les Hall flying fox and bat researcher.
Dr Les Hall.

Dr Hall, who worked at the CSIRO and Queensland University, said many people only have bad things to say about the flying foxes.

"It is true they damage fruit crops and cause problems if they roost too close to habitation,” he said.

"The recent outbreaks of both lysa and hendra virus have not improved the animals reputation.”

Dr Hall said lysa was first noticed in about 1996 and hendra came around 2003.

Little Red flying foxes.
Little Red flying foxes.

"Hendra is rare and scientists have tried to transfer it from flying foxes to horses without success,” he said.

"I think a small biting stable fly may well be the vector.”

He said both diseases can be serious for people, and warned to definitely not touch or handle sick or injured flying foxes.

"Contact a vet or rescue group. Do not handle,” he said.

"Treat them as you would snakes.”

Dr Hall said research into the reasons why a flying fox colony choose a particular site for roosting may lead to ways of moving them on when necessary.

"The good things include pollination of most of our eucalypt species,” he said.

"Eucalypts and flying fox arrived at about the same geological time.”

"We have evidence from near Murgon of flying foxes being present 45 million years ago.”

Dr Hall said flying fox numbers seem to be reducing.

Little Red flying foxes in flight.
Little Red flying foxes in flight.

He suggested that habitat destruction as a cause but mentioned that the reproductive rate is quite low with a mortality of first year young at over 90%.

Flying foxes are very sensitive to quite minor changes in temperature, a degree or two can increase deaths and when temperatures reach the low to mid-40s the animals will actually drop from their roost.

Dr Hall said flying foxes have extended their range south into Victoria and even Tasmania over recent years.

The old question as to why flying foxes and bats hang upside down is because legs heavy and strong enough to hold the animals upright would be a lot of extra weight to carry around in flight.