Endangered bats evicted
By SAMANTHA TURNBULL
BYRON Bay-based Greens MLC Ian Cohen is on a mercy mission to save almost 100 rare fish-eating bats from death.
Mr Cohen has called on the NSW Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal to immediately place a stop work order on the demolition of the old Brunswick River bridge, which was once home to a colony of large-footed myotis bats.
Demolition of the bridge, which is expected to take about a month, began yesterday with the removal of railings.
Up until the new bridge was completed in December, the bats, which are listed as 'vulnerable' under the Threatened Species Conservation Act, lived in holes underneath the old bridge.
They were removed and relocated by 'bat experts' and Roads and Traffic Authority workers, however Mr Cohen said the process had killed at least 10 per cent of the colony and he expected more carnage.
He said the bats were pulled from their holes, put in bags, locked in boxes under the new bridge and released only at night. Their former nesting holes were covered in plastic so they could not return.
"When they were released at night they scattered and some were trying to get back into their old homes," Mr Cohen said.
"The Government and the RTA should allow the bats to go back into the old bridge, settle them down and then remove them more carefully.
"My suggestion is that it would be reasonable for the government to pause and come up with a better way of doing this."
The RTA's Pacific Highway project manager Bob Higgins yesterday refused to directly answer any questions about the bridge or the bats posed by The Northern Star.
Instead, he requested all questions in writing which were sent to the RTA's media department.
A statement was released saying bat experts visited the site and advised the RTA on the best way to move the colony from the old bridge.
"A strategy for moving the bats was developed and approved by the Department of Environment and Climate Change," the statement said.
"In the process of moving the bats, it was discovered numerous bats had parasites and a small number of bats died before and after the move.
"The DECC was immediately advised and staff again checked the condition of animals in the colony. The bats will be continually monitored while demolition work progresses."
Mr Roozendaal did not return calls from The Northern Star yesterday.