Spectacled Flying Fox

Spectacled Flying Foxes outside of the Cairns Public Library

Even though the IUCN Red List states the spectacled flying fox is stable, the Australian government as listed them as endangered.  There are several reasons for this.  The major reason is that during a heat wave in early 2019, 23,000 flying foxed died.  That is stunning.  Nearly one-third of a species population gone in three days.  (Read about it here).  Climate change brings gradual increases in temperature with yearly averages usually high than previous year.  Animals are having difficulty adapting.  Is this the new normal?

The Cairns Far North Environmental Centre staged a vigil (Click Here).  Is this the best we can do as a species – hold vigils after something goes?  CFNEC has been drawing attention to the plight of the bat for years.  There are other organizations as well such as the Environmental Defenders Office that have tried and are trying to halt the eradication of spectacled flying fox.

There are a lot of people who just don’t like the bats.  They are noisy and their guano is smelly (even if it is a good fertilizer).  This is such a big problem that the government allows active dispersal of roosts and is investigating “Alternative Management of the problem of flying foxes”.  Their title not mine (Click here).  Here is some facts about flying foxes if you want some more information (Click here).  This article states: “Flying foxes are the most efficient pollinators and seed disperses of the Australian rainforests.”

Even though humans are contributing to climate change and it would be nice to point to humans a nebulous cause for which there are no single soul to damn or body to kick, there is another party at fault for the plight of the spectacled flying fox.

For the last few years the Cairns permit office has authorized the cutting down and removal of century year old trees that have served as daytime roosting habitat for these bats.  Why?  Construction of new high rise buildings that not only change the cityscape of Cairns, but also feed the mass-tourism economy that Cairns is thriving on.

This is a pre-2013 picture.  We visited this site 7/16/2019.  All the trees on the left were gone.  Only the five trees on the right remained.

With continued nefariousness, as if the new elimination of roosting sites wasn’t enough, the continued construction around the roosting foxes disrupt their sleep and are forcing them away.  (A nice write up here about it)

They were indeed noisy, chattering about, doing their things.  Some of the mama bats hugged the baby bats.  Some bats kicked other out of one roost only them take up with different neighbors on a different roost.  We were lucky to see them when we did.  We gathered with about 30-40 people to watch them leave their roost as the flew out into the evening sky to pollinate fruit trees all over the greater Cairns area.

I’m not thinking about my species, I just want to pollinate and procreate.

Waiting for the ferry across the Daintree River we were fortunate enough to see another colony.  We herd them from a long way off and got to see their antics one last time before leaving the Daintree.

Spectacled Flying Fox by the Daintree ferry

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