Flying fox colony established near the Everglades
A new grey-headed flying fox colony has been established near the Everglades Country Club, close to food sources in both the Bouddi and Brisbane Water National Parks.
Dr Kerryn Parry-Jones, head flying fox carer with Wildlife Arc on the Central Coast, said the new colony was an offshoot of an existing colony at Wyoming.
Dr Parry-Jones said it used to be quite a rare occurrence for flying foxes to establish new colonies but it is becoming more common in response to habitat depletion across both NSW and Queensland.
"We have removed so much of our forest ecosystem, which, by the way, Australia leads the world in; we only have four per cent of our original forest ecosystem left.
"That is changing the behaviour and the distribution of species including bats and the grey-headed flying fox because they are very mobile and will relocate close to food sources," she said.
According to Wildlife Arc and WIRES, a bat colony or camp is not a community of bats but is defined as "a place where bats hang out".
A new colony can include anything from five to one hundred bats, Dr Parry Jones said.
She is currently working with a "gigantic" colony near the Barrington Tops where, she said, the population was "uncountable" but estimated to be around 100,000.
The key to the location of a new colony or camp is the availability of food and since January both Swamp Mahogany and Melaleuca have been flowering in abundance in the national parks surrounding Woy Woy and Umina.
"At the moment, we have quite a lot of blossom on the Coast," she said.
"Bats depend on a good food supply and that is what the Coast has right now."
She said she wished to reassure the local community that the colony is not dangerous to human health.
Locals may notice a peak in activity about 30 minutes after dusk when the flying foxes "fly out" in a big mob and then scatter to forage for food, returning to the colony in the morning.
It appears the majority of flying foxes in the new Everglades colony head south each evening while others fly towards Bouddi to feed.
April is also the peak of the breed's mating season, Ms Parry-Jones said.
The grey-headed flying foxes are an endangered species so mating season is a critical time for the colony.
The species current birth rate is on a par with its death rate, she said.
"Flying foxes are very vocal during mating season," she said.
Dr Parry-Jones said Wildlife Arc and WIRES recently conducted a community presentation at Everglades to reassure locals that the colony was "safe".
She said it was attended by around 50 residents who were enthusiastic and asked many sensible questions.
"All animals tend to have diseases they pass between themselves.
"Bats get a lot of publicity but there is nothing you can catch from their wee or poo."
The Australian Bat Lyssavirus is a very nasty disease but it can only be passed from bat to human via a bite or a scratch involving the transmission of bodily fluids.
According to Dr Parry-Jones, the percentage of the bat population known to be positive for ABL is "a fraction of one per cent".
Humans who are bitten or scratched can also get a free vaccination after the event to ensure they do not contract the virus.
Since 1996, there have only been three known fatalities, two before the virus was known about; the third was because the child did not inform his family that he had been bitten.
Dr Parry-Jones did advise people who came into contact with an injured bat or any bat on the ground not to touch it or attempt to pick it up.
Bats may also have Hendra virus which cannot be transmitted directly to humans but, if contracted by a horse, can then be passed on to humans.
There is now a vaccine for horses and Dr Parry-Jones said there was strong evidence that species found this far south do not carry Hendra at this stage.
Interview, 26, 28 Apr 2017
Dr Kerryn Parry-Jones, Wildlife Animal Rescue and Care
Reporters: Madeline Trevethan, Jackie Pearson