Heat decimates local bat colony

TUESDAY’S heat episode has decimated one of the Shoalhaven’s flying fox colonies.

As temperatures soared above 40 degrees the grey-headed flying fox, which is listed as vulnerable, fell victim to the heat with at least 1000 members of the 11,500 strong colony being found dead.

Volunteers from Wildlife Rescue South Coast along with National Parks staff spent numerous hours in the colony on Tuesday trying to save the dying animals.

For Gerardine Hawkins of Wildlife Rescue South Coast Inc, affectionately known as the “bat lady”, it was a heartbreaking scene.

“There were literally hundreds of flying foxes just lying dead on the floor of the colony,” she said.

“At the base of one tree alone there were 50 animals just on top of one another and that wasn’t an isolated case.

“We got to bed about 2.30am Wednesday after working most of Tuesday in the colony and with the rescued animals.”

She said the grey-headed flying fox was a “lovely animal and very important for Australia”.

“They are the sole pollinator of Australian eucalypts so play a vital role,” she said.

“The flying foxes are extremely vulnerable to the heat. We usually have three days to rescue animals before they will die, but Tuesday was such a terrible day, it has just struck them so quickly,” Ms Hawkins said.

As the temperatures rise the bats slowly lower themselves down the trees seeking the cool and water.

“A number of the adults were skimming the water trying to get their chests wet.

“The babies get separated from their mothers and it’s mainly babies that we are dealing with trying to save,” Ms Hawkins said.

There has also been reports of adult flying foxes being stranded on barbwire fences and of animals turning up in local residents’ backyards with two reports of people being bitten.

Wildlife Rescue can be contacted on 0418 427 214. 

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