On December 12, 1985, the Honorable Bob Carr, New South Wales Minister for the Environment and Planning, announced his signing of legislation providing statewide protection of flying foxes at a meeting with Drs. Merlin Tuttle and Dedee Woodside. Dr. Woodside, a BCI member, is a resident bat expert and Curator of Mammals at Sydney's Taronga Zoo where Minister Carr's staff biologists attended Dr. Tuttle's lecture on the previous evening. Minister Carr's surprise announcement followed a cordial hour and a half meeting, where issues surrounding flying fox protection were discussed. Flying foxes now have the same legal protection as the state's other native mammals.
In the past, attempts have been made to literally extinct these valuable animals in New South Wales, and in southern parts of the state massive shooting forays at their roosts apparently were successful extensive areas have not been recolonized for decades.
Under the new legislation, farmers who document flying fox damage to their orchards can obtain special permits to deal with specific cases. This system now provides a means whereby the government can identify, study and hopefully solve legitimate problems. We congratulate Minister Carr for his careful consideration of the facts, despite strong opposition from poorly informed lobbyists. His approach should benefit both bats and farmers and provide leadership that could influence officials in Queensland, where the situation remains serious.
Queensland's Minister McKechnie, whose ill-conceived legislation has targeted all flying foxes for eradication (see BATS, September 1984), now privately admits that his move was entirely politically motivated, not even helpful to the fruit growers whose votes were sought. While he hesitates to reverse his action for fear of political embarrassment, Queensland's biologists report newspaper advertisements for mass flying fox shoots and permanent destruction of already scarce traditional roosting sites. Since these bats are major pollinators of Australia's hardwood forests, the long-term ecological consequences are potentially disastrous.
Dr. Tuttle was recently interviewed by a writer for the fruit grower's newspaper, The Fruit and Vegetable News, noting that there has been no government investigation upon which responsible management policy could be developed, and that current legislation in Queensland simply amounts to governmental neglect of both farmer and conservation interests.
The many letters from BCI members expressing international concern for Queensland's flying foxes have caused considerable government embarrassment and continue to be needed. Write to The Honorable P.R. McKechnie, Minister for Tourism, National Parks, Sport and the Arts, Parliament House, Alice Street, Brisbane 4000, Queensland, Australia.
Drs. Tuttle and Woodside presenting Minister Bob Carr (center) with a flying fox poster following their December 12 meeting in Sydney, Australia. Photo courtesy Sydney Morning Herald.