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Byron Shire
May 22, 2024

Batty humans should leave flying foxes alone

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Conflict between flying foxes and humans in our region is so disconcerting. Humans have destroyed 75 per cent of pre-colonial forests for logging, mining, livestock grazing, industries, cities and housing. We continue to take from the land whatever resources we need to make ourselves comfortable (computers, TVs, cars, refrigerators, mobile phones, iPads etc).

But when the flying foxes are too close to our schools and homes, screeching and squabbling all day with a smell we dislike, we scream ‘they have to go’!  But where? We have taken away their habitat, their food sources and now they are becoming permanent fugitives as they go from place to place, exhausted, starving, stressed, moved on by humans whose needs are judged more important than the needs of a species on the tipping point of extinction. This situation will worsen as time goes on with increasing habitat loss due to human overpopulation and encroachment onto their land.

Flying fox populations have declined 95 per cent in the last century and 30 per cent since 1988 and are vulnerable to extinction. Their ecosystem services of night-time pollination is without compare. Every night they fly up to 50km dispersing approximately 60,000 seeds each. What does it mean if they become extinct?  Simply this – no more World Heritage forests, hardwood forests, melaleucas, banksias, eucalypts and about a third of all fruit (including bananas, avocadoes, mangoes, peaches, pawpaw, cashews). And fewer trees mean less oxygen to breathe.

Our preoccupation with creature comforts is trivial in comparison. Shouldn’t we be incredibly grateful to this keystone species whose existence is critically important for so many other species including ourselves? Shouldn’t we be a bit more tolerant? From a bat’s perspective we are the ones who are stinky, filthy, noisy pests!

Humans have had it good for too long. If we can’t live in harmony with other species in an eocentric vs anthropocentric way, we too will head for extinction.

If aliens were watching us they would probably think we were the stupidest creature on the planet.


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