The deaths of two baby bats have prompted an animal rights group to call on authorities to end a controversial program designed to frighten the animals out of a Queensland city.
Dispersal of spectacled flying foxes from trees around Cairns was scheduled to cease in October as the species’ critical breeding season began, however council says they have no intention of stopping.
The program has been permanently extended by the federal regulator, with Cairns Regional Council arguing that the bats are “no longer roosting at this site”.
Animal Liberation Queensland’s Amanda Holly travelled to an area near the city’s library this week to film the animals attempting to roost as dispersal efforts continued.
She says the animals, which are a protected species, need to “actually be protected”.
Ms Holly alleges that flying fox mothers were unable to return to their pups after a night of feeding, due to the council’s early morning dispersal methods which include loud noises and bright lights.
“Most heartbreaking is that there are a lot of pups in the trees and calling out for their mothers,” Ms Holly told Yahoo News Australia.
“The mothers aren’t able to return because the the council are actively scaring them away.
“What we saw on Saturday morning is that one of the pups had passed away in a tree.
“It was probably only a week or so old, and there were four others still alive in the trees, so that was really sad.”
Ms Holly says that when she returned to site on Tuesday, another dead pup was found.
Council denies pup deaths linked to dispersal
Spectacled flying foxes are federally listed as endangered, with their numbers affected by habitat loss and heatwaves in Queensland.
The state has been home to the largest amount of clearing in Australia, with 2,446,600 hectares of deforestation occurring between 2010 and 2018, according to data released this month.
There were thought to be roughly 5,000 spectacled flying foxes roosting in trees close to the Cairns library, with environmental groups criticising the dispersal plan's approval in June.
A Cairns Regional Council spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia they acknowledged the “important” role the species played in the environment.
Council noted that they have an onsite ecologist and argued their deterrent plan is in line with “ecologically sustainable management” practices.
They deny their actions are responsible for the death of the baby bats.
“Two pups have been discovered at the site, neither of which has been attributed to council’s actions,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“Last year’s birthing season many pups were abandoned and died as a result of falling to the ground and not having onsite carers to take them into care.
“During last year’s birthing season, over 200 deaths were recorded at the site and many hundreds taken into care.”
The spokesperson said that with increased construction and urban development within close proximity to the colony, without relocation, the animals would have faced “stress” and “adverse” effects.
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