Lorn Flying Foxes 27.3.2012

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Went to show a friend the Lorn flying fox colony yesterday. As usual it was lovely to see them and I learned that flying foxes prefer spotted gum flowers to melaleuca flowers. Who’d a thought?

I also discovered that there’s a huge fine for disturbing or harming flying foxes in any way, which includes making noise to scare them. I believe some people have been warned not to repeat such behaviour in Lorn.

There’s a discussion of a preliminary report on the Plan of Management for the colony a tomorrow’s meeting at Maitland Council. It starts at 5:30pm and the flying foxes are early on the agenda.

This is straight from the business papers:

UPDATE ON LORN FLYING FOX PLAN OF MANAGEMENT

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

8.1.1 To enhance the quality, amenity and integrity of the natural environment.
The purpose of this report is to inform Council of the current state of development of the Plan of Management for the Lorn Flying Fox colony. It also reaffirms Councils role in this matter and reinforces that State and Federal government agencies are the agencies empowered and responsible for regulating and protecting wildlife, and are therefore properly placed to offer advice on public health aspects of coexistence in an urban community.
OFFICER’S RECOMMENDATION
THAT 1. A briefing of Council will be held following the receipt of the interim
report.
2. A community briefing session be undertaken prior to the completion of the Plan of Management.
3. Council formally approach all appropriate State and Federal Government Agencies seeking their cooperation in providing knowledge, guidance and assistance in respect to public health, financial support schemes and best practice removal techniques in respect to the management of Flying Fox camps; and
4. Council make strong representation to the local State and Federal members of Parliament in relation to the urgent and timely approval of any application for action arising from the Plan of Management.
REPORT
This report is presented to update Council on the progress of the development of the Plan of Management (PoM) currently being prepared for the Lorn Flying Fox camp. Council allocated funding towards the preparation of the PoM following the settlement of the flying fox camp on the public parkland owned by Council, off The Avenue, Lorn. The park adjoins privately owned land which also is providing habitat for the camp.

ORDINARY MEETING AGENDA    27 MARCH 2012
UPDATE ON LORN FLYING FOX PLAN OF MANAGEMENT
In early 2011 Council was alerted to the establishment of a Flying Fox/Bat camp in the area bounded by The Avenue, Belmore Road, Lorn and Bowden streets, Lorn. This alert came via local residents, and Rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Council was notified by the NPWS as it is the owner of the park on which a small number of trees were providing habitat. The majority of the colony was and remains on private land.
With the assistance of the officers of the EPA and NPWS (both then a branch of the Office of Environment and Heritage) and the Local Member for Maitland, The Hon Robyn Parker, a site meeting was held to discuss areas of concern and to exchange knowledge with both affected landowners and the broader Lorn community.
It was identified at that time and subsequently by Dr Peggy Eby, a highly regarded expert in this field, that the existence of particularly the Grey Headed Flying Fox (GHFF), meant that habitat modification, relocation or disturbance either directly or indirectly of the endangered/vulnerable species could not lawfully occur without prior approval.
Such approval is required from both the State and Federal tiers of government. It is important to reiterate that Council does not enjoy any particular advantage or status in making such an application. It was also advised that in order to make an application, a PoM would be required for the affected area, to justify and demonstrate appropriate consideration of all options in relation to the colony, and that care had and would be taken.
The decision to commission the PoM was made at the Council meeting of the 22 November 2011 and the successful consultant, GeoLINK, was subsequently commissioned. In accordance with GeoLINK’s agreed timeframe an interim draft report is expected before the end of March, a community consultation session is to be held in mid April, and the final report received by Council in early May. On receipt of the final PoM, a further report will be prepared for Council to determine its course of action and related funding allocations.
The terms of the PoM as requested by Council are that it address: •    Short and long term options •    Statutory and animal welfare issues •    Habitat modifications/alternatives
•    Translocation/relocation options, potential location alternatives •    Coexistence, modifications necessary to reduce impact •    Community involvement/neighbour relations •    Risk management and public safety for both public and private land
The plan has been commissioned on behalf of Council as an affected landowner. However, we have asked that it be written in such a manner that all affected and interested owners may use the outcomes of the plan when seeking individual approvals to undertake any action identified in the PoM. In this regard, it should be noted that the various pieces of legislation governing this matter require applications from each affected property owner. In the Lorn situation, any application following from the PoM may therefore necessitate an agreed position by all parties.

The PoM has been commissioned so as to provide a framework for properly considered decision making, to provide support and justification for any necessary governmental applications required to be made, to help provide a legal defence in respect to any action taken by the parties, and to provide a more substantiated basis for representation and advocacy to State and Federal Government in seeking assistance and relief in a matter which is seriously affecting a part of our community.
The plan will also provide information and capacity building on matters related to community and public health, and should draw together the knowledge held by the individual government agencies that play a part in managing wildlife, and in balancing this with public and environmental health and wellbeing.
In order to provide community information in the interim period Council has modified its webpage to provide information linkages on living with Flying Foxes in the urban environment.
It is important to again stress that Council’s decision to prepare a PoM that is portable enough for other landowners to rely upon, is beyond its statutory responsibility. The decision was made with the broader stewardship of the environment and local community firmly in mind. Council has no regulatory role in enforcement of the protective Acts that are governing this matter.
It is also essential to understand and acknowledge that Council cannot act in any way that is contrary to the law. It cannot lawfully make any decisions nor take action to implement any disturbance measure in the absence of appropriate governmental approvals. Council is bound by the same suite of laws that govern and regulate the actions of any individual in these circumstances.
CONCLUSION
Council has responsibly undertaken to finance the PoM currently under development for the greater good of the community and local environment. What should now be sought is additional State and Federal Government support for the Lorn community and Council alike, by way of targeted health education, potential financial assistance to landowners, and support advice on coexistence and relocation strategies.

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3 Responses to “Lorn Flying Foxes 27.3.2012”

  1. Shani Sandner Says:

    What foxy ladies !

  2. Verity FITH Says:

    In your medical opinion, Are these a health hazard, Dr. Raschke?
    I will be guided by your written advices as to health risks.

    • Caity Raschke Says:

      Far be it from me to consider myself an expert but there are loads of fact sheets written by government departments. My understanding is that bats pose a minimal risk to communities, if any risk at all.

      Don’t let yourself be bitten or scratched i.e. don’t handle them. FEWER THAN 1% of bats carry lyssavirus which is related to rabies, a disease that is fatal if it becomes symptomatic. Bat carers and rescuers have a vaccine to protect them from this so they are the people to call if you find an injured bat.

      Hendra virus is a scary disease but is rare – it’s passed from bats to horses, and from horses to people. Bats infect horses more commonly if the bats are stressed e.g. by loss of habitat. The disease is scary because it has a high mortality rate in people, however only a handful of people have ever been infected. I don’t mean to minimise the seriousness of this infection but it is uncommon.

      There are loads of good fact sheets, just as there are lots of good news stories about bats.

      I’ll post about them tomorrow. I was very happy to walk under the bat colony on the weekend, but I was sad that I disturbed them so won’t do that again. I’ve been unfortunate enough to be bombed by both bat urine and poo – in Laman St and in a wildlife park in North Queensland – and lived to tell the tale.

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