Much of what appears in the media about flying-foxes is rubbish – based on ignorance, fear or prejudice. The same old myths are trotted out over and over: that flying-foxes are in plague proportions (balderdash), that they’re invading the suburbs (baloney), that they’re a catastrophic health risk (bunk) and impossible to live with (bull). Here we wipe a few gleaming facts free of the BS
Are flying-foxes a serious threat to human health?
All animals, including humans, are capable of carrying and spreading disease, but flying-foxes have been wrongly accused of passing on all manner of diseases including - respiratory illness, salmonellosis, histoplasmosis and leptospirosis. Click here
Are flying-foxes really in plague proportions?
The papers constantly report that there has been a "population explosion" of bats, and they're in plague proportions; but that is biologically impossible - Click here
Nothing could be further from the truth. Two of the four mainland species of flying-fox are nationally threatened. The decision to list species is based on an assessment by a panel of experts who must prove that numbers have declined over a substantial period. It is unsurprising that flying-foxes have declined, because they have lost large areas of habitat through land clearing, and been killed in large numbers by fruit growers.
Are flying-foxes are filthy and smelly?
You wouldn’t spend nearly as long as flying-foxes do in keeping clean and grooming. Some people like their smell, others don’t, but it’s not due to dirtiness.Click here
Flying-foxes are clean animals. They spend a lot of time grooming and are generally free of parasites and dirt. Contrary to some claims, they do not defecate on themselves, but invert (hang upside down) to urinate or defecate. All mammals smell (that's why humans have a thriving deodorant industry). Flying foxes do not generally have a strong odour (compared to say, dogs or tomcats), but males secrete a musk-like substance to mark their territories.
Do bat droppings strip the paint off cars?
Although many people say it "happened to a mate" in fact it is very rare that flying-fox poo causes damage, and then only when it is left for days.Click here
If you leave just about any biological muck on a car long enough, it is likely that mould or fungus will grow, and react with polymers in the paint - but there is nothing in bat poo itself that can damage your car's paint. All you need to do is hose or wash it off.
Are flying-foxes ferals?
In the media people often refer to flying foxes as "ferals" or compare them to cane toads, but they are as dinky di Australian as koalas and kangaroos. Click here
They are the opposite of feral: they are native Australian animals that were here long before human settlement. Unlike pest species such as cane toads, flying-foxes are an important and positive part of the Australian environment. They are ‘keystone’ species because of the value of their pollination and seed dispersal services to ecosystems (and the human economy).
Have flying-foxes decimated the horse-racing industry?
Hendra is a serious virus. Although it is not common, it can kill horses and horses can infect people. But it is easy to prevent. Click here
There is now a vaccine that protects horses from Hendra virus. The virus was first identified in 1996, and in the intervening 17 years, fewer than 90 horses have died: an average of 5 a year. By comparison, the horse-racing industry slaughters an estimated 18,000 perfectly healthy horses every year for financial reasons. Hendra virus is transmitted to humans from horses, not flying-foxes. Queensland Health advises that living near a colony, or having flying-foxes fly overhead or feed in your garden is not a health hazard. Anyone who is bitten or scratched by a flying-fox should immediately seek medical advice as a precaution, More information on Hendra Virus at www.hendrafacts.info.
Are flying-foxes "disease ridden"?
Bats aren't blind and flying-foxes are not "disease-ridden". The fact that it is said often doesn't make it true. Click here
Flying-foxes suffer no more diseases than other wildlife. The thousands of people who have been in close contact with flying-foxes as wildlife carers have not suffered health consequences. The greatest source of human disease infections is other humans. Flying-foxes are known to host three viruses that very rarely cause human illness in Australia. Just two people are known to have died due to contact with a flying-fox – from infection by Australian Bat Lyssavirus in 1996 and 2013. This virus can only be transmitted when infected bat saliva comes into contact with human tissue through an open wound or membrane. It can be avoided by people not handling bats unless they are vaccinated. There is effective treatment for anyone who is bitten or scratched that prevents the disease developing.
Have flying-foxes wrecked the fruit-growing industry?
Orchards are concentrated sources of food for birds and flying-foxes. It is economically irrational not to protect them, and the only effective way to do so is with nets. Click here
The majority of fruit growers affected by flying-foxes now protect their crops with nets. This is the only way to protect an orchard from significant flying-fox pressure. Shooting does not work. While un-netted orchards suffer losses due to flying-foxes and birds, total fruit losses in those orchards represent a small proportion of overall fruit production. There are numerous financial benefits of netting above and beyond protection from flying foxes.
Is shooting flying-foxes humane?
The Qld Government has exempted flying-foxes from laws that require methods of crop protection to be humane. Numerous expert assessments have found that shooting flying-foxes is inevitably cruel.Click here.
The NSW Independent Review found that "the animal welfare issues that result from shooting ... flying-foxes are unacceptable ethically and legally". The Qld Animal Welfare Advisory Committee advised the Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries that "the shooting of flying-foxes to control predation in the fruit crop industry is inhumane". A study by Sydney University found that "At least 27% of flying-foxes that were shot were alive hours and at times days after being shot" which contravenes any definition of “humane killing”. Flying-fox young die from thirst of starvation over several days when their mother is shot. There is no animal welfare organisation in Australia that believes that the shooting of flying foxes is humane.
Is shooting flying-foxes sustainable?
Proponents of shooting claim that the numbers shot will not cause flying fox populations to decline. But those being shot include threatened species and enforcement is very limited.Click here
In 2009, the NSW Government ordered an independent review of shooting of flying foxes. It concluded that "any orchard shooting will hasten decline of the flying fox population". It said that "shooting is ineffective when larger numbers of flying fox visit orchards" and that "the industry could rely solely on exclusion netting, as the means of Grey-headed Flying-fox crop damage mitigation". In short, it is not sustainable. Because flying-foxes breed slowly and are subject to many different threats, shooting can tip populations into decline or more rapid decline. The shooting occurs on private property at night, so it is almost impossible to enforce limits on numbers.