The Queensland Government has announced a $2.7 million investment over three years to help local councils monitor little-red flying fox movements and to improve management of roosts in urban areas.
Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles confirmed the additional funding would be allocated in the State Budget.
Dr Miles said the Government recognised the need to manage urban flying-fox roosts to address community concerns, while ensuring the long-term survival of these species in the wild.
“We recognise that some flying fox roosts in built-up areas need intervention to protect residents from nuisance impacts such as smell and noise. And we also recognise the vital role played by flying foxes in pollinating native plants and maintaining forest health,” Dr Miles said.
“We also acknowledge that while Councils can move roosts on, they have no control over where they go next. So understanding their movements will make sure Councils aren’t just shuffling a problem around their community, or to a neighbouring Council.”
As part of the program CSIRO scientists will fit little-red flying foxes with GPS transmitters to track their movements by satellite to gain a greater understanding of their roosting preferences, where they feed and the factors that influence their behaviour.
The program will commence later 2016 in Charters Towers in North Queensland, the gateway between the Cape York Peninsula where hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions of little-red flying foxes spend winter before heading south in the warmer months in search of flowering Eucalypt.
“It makes sense to start the project in the north of the state, so that we can track flying fox movements around that area, as they come and go into Cape York Peninsula, and as they make their way down to the southern and central parts of the state,” Dr Miles said.
The use of GPS transmitters and satellite monitoring will allow flying fox movements to be tracked and interpreted across thousands of kilometres.
Dr Miles said information gained from this work would guide future decision-making and approaches to the management of flying fox roosts in urban areas.
“Residents in urban areas throughout Queensland have experienced issues that come with an increase in flying fox camps near residents.
“Towns such as Kilcoy and Linville and areas on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts became hot-spots for little-red flying foxes.
“This research is intended to improve our understanding of flying fox behaviour – and will benefit residents from the far north to the state’s south-east,’’ he said.
Director of Australian Bat Clinic, Trish Wimberley, who has provided advice to many Queensland councils about managing flying fox roosts, said the government research would be invaluable.
“It is important councils have science based education and knowledge if and when it becomes necessary to move or maintain flying fox camps in local suburbs,’’ she said.
“It is equally important that these populations remain healthy across their range.
“GPS tracking studies will most certainly help us better understand the behaviours of flying foxes in a changing environment,’’ she said.
Scientist and vice-president of the Australasian Bat Society, Dr Monika Rhodes, also welcomed the research.
“There has been little work done to study the behaviour and ecology of little-red flying foxes and I welcome this research which will help fill this knowledge gap,” Dr Rhodes said.
“We know that flying fox roosts can be a challenging issue for communities across Queensland, and it is important that management decision are based on the best available science”.
Dr Miles said the government would continue to allow councils to take action to address local flying fox problems.
“We will work closely with local governments to improve council practices, but councils will continue to have authority to manage flying-foxes at roosts in urban areas.
“Councils can carry out more intense urban roost management activities as long as they obtain a Flying-fox Roost Management Permit from the Queensland Government.
“In keeping with our election commitment, we will review the flying-fox management framework and introduce changes as necessary.
“Any future decisions must be scientifically-sound and not put flying-fox populations at risk,