I was planning with this edition of “The Memo” to share with you a more detailed look at BCI’s renewed commitment to working collaboratively around the world, why it is people who make the difference for long-lasting bat conservation, and how our impact is greatest when we work together to conserve the bats we value so dearly. That, at least, was my plan before we learned that Queensland, Australia, was reinstating the permitted shooting of flying foxes.
10,500. That is the number of flying foxes of four species that can be legally killed by fruit growers each year. The bats that will face shotguns include the grey-headed flying fox, whose populations collapsed by at least 30 percent from 1989 to 2001.
Unfortunately, there are few mechanisms in place to enforce the rules for the permitted hunting, and many more bats will almost certainly be killed. In addition, wounded bats are all too often left to die slowly. Some are known to suffer for up to four days before dying. Young bats starve to death when nursing mothers are killed. The tragic reality is that thousands more flying foxes will die under this ruling.
The hunting of bats is a serious conservation issue around the world. As we have previously reported in BATS, commercial hunting is devastating flying fox colonies in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Conservationists in many countries are working with their governments to establish laws and policies against such hunting and some countries, such as the Philippines, have passed laws that ban hunting bats. We need a firm foundation for protecting bats, and regulations, while not the ultimate answer, are an essential part of the solution.
This is the United Nations-declared International Year of the Bat. Prior to this announcement out of Australia, 2012 had been a year of increasing public awareness and appreciation of bats and their ecological and economic benefits. This had been a year of people coming together to conserve bats, a year when the conservation of bats had been advanced around the world.
While this unfortunate decision in Queensland does not change the great progress that was made for bat conservation this year, it does leave an ugly blemish on the world’s Year of the Bat. We cannot let this pass without doing our best to reverse the decision. We owe it to the bats and to our bat-conservation colleagues on the front lines in Australia. To find out how to make your voice heard, see “Shotguns & Bats Down Under” on page 14 of this issue of BATS.
BCI will be working with bat-conservation leaders in Australia and around the world to convince the Queensland government to revoke this decision and once again ban the hunting of flying foxes. We will also work with conservationists, government officials and fruit growers to implement a viable solution (such as netting) that protects the fruit orchards from damage caused by the flying foxes without destroying the bats. I believe there is a solution and that, by working with all parties, we will find it.