Bats dying in 'significant numbers': Wildlife crisis

LOCAL bats are dying in severe numbers, and local wildlife groups are baffled.

WIRES Northern Rivers Bat Coordinator Lib Ruytenberg said flying foxes were dying all across the east of NSW and south-east of QLD, but the reason behind the deaths in the Northern Rivers is not yet clear.

While flying foxes are dying south of the Northern Rivers due to a food shortage, and dying north of the Northern Rivers due to a suspected blood parasite, the reason for the deaths in our region is not yet clear.

Ms Ruytenberg said that all wildlife groups across the affected regions are at their care capacity.

WIRES Northern Rivers have been visiting the bat colonies at Casino, Lismore, Dalwood, Kyogle and Old Grevilla on a daily basis, finding hundreds of flying foxes dead each morning.

Ms Ruytenberg said the mystery cause is effecting - almost exclusively - grey-headed flying foxes, which are already on the brink of extinction.

The wildlife group have rescued several dozen flying foxes from these Northern Rivers colony camps, and are now at care capacity - but they still don't know what is causing the bats to die.

"There are two different schools of thought about the cause,” Ms Ruytenberg said.

"Elsewhere, south of the Northern Rivers, it's definitely a food shortage.

"In south-east QLD they think it could be a blood parasite affecting the flying foxes,” she said, adding that the Department of Health were monitoring the bats for an accurate reading of the cause.

"But we don't know what's happening here.”

She said, while it couldn't be pointed to as the cause, the lack of rain lately probably "didn't help” the situation.

Ms Ruytenberg said it was interesting that this wave of deaths was happening now, as we pass the two year anniversary of the heat event in Casino where 5000-6000 flying foxes were wiped out.

WIRES Northern Rivers is continuing to monitor the local flying fox colonies on a daily basis, and rescuing the bats they can while they attempt to discern why the bats keep dying.

The advice Ms Ruytenberg gave to the public was that if someone has seen a bat by themselves (especially a young bat, as they cannot fly until 10 weeks of age), call WIRES Northern Rivers or Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers as each has bat volunteers.

A flying fox hanging around by themselves during the day time is not a normal occurrence, she said, as they usually spend their time at their colony camp, or travelling in numbers.

She added that the public should not touch the bats.



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