New sprinklers to cool down Vic bat colony

·1-min read

Victoria's largest permanent flying fox colony will be able to keep cool over summer thanks to a custom-built $180,000 sprinkler system.

The sprinklers, part of a $5.3 million wildlife boost in May's state budget, will be up and running within months in Melbourne's Yarra Bend Park to help protect the local colony of up to 50,000 grey-headed flying foxes.

Area chief ranger Brendan Sullivan said temperatures above 38C can prove fatal to the bats, which are listed as a threatened species.

"The idea with this irrigation system is to kept that ambient temperature below 40C so the bats aren't getting pushed into that extreme level of thermo-regulation," he told reporters on Monday.

The fruit bats play a vital role in pollinating and dispersing seeds for native forests, and climate change is making it harder for them to survive, creating hotter and longer summers, Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said.

But not everyone is a fan of the bats, with outgoing Kew MP Tim Smith saying they are a nuisance and spread disease.

"The government is going to spend almost $200k to hose them down when it gets hot over summer. Yes, as everyone knows, I dislike bats, and many other locals hate them too," he tweeted.

The Liberal MP, who will not recontest his seat after a drink driving incident last year, in 2020 called for the colony to be moved or culled after the emergence of the COVID-19 virus in China was linked to bats.

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