Wildlife Queensland opposes relocation of endangered spectacled flying fox colony at Cairns City Library

29 May 2020

Australia’s vastly diminished Spectacled flying fox population faces a new threat to its survival following a recent federal decision granting the relocation of a significant roosting colony of spectacled flying foxes in Cairns.

In April 2019, Wildlife Queensland wrote to the Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra opposing the Cairns City Council proposed relocation measures of the Cairns Library colony of endangered spectacled flying foxes.

Sadly, on 15 May 2020, Endangered Species Day, Cairns Regional Council was granted permission by the Federal Government to relocate the colony of approximately 5,000 spectacled flying foxes, which is listed as nationally significant and has been a tourist highlight and education opportunity for many years.

This sets a horrific precedent for all endangered species and highlights the very shortcomings of the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and its ability to protect endangered species.

Shortcomings of EPBC Act to protect endangered species

In February 2019, the Australian government upgraded the conservation status of the spectacled flying fox from vulnerable to endangered, after almost a third (an estimated 20,000+) of the bat population died in a severe heatwave in Queensland in late 2018.

 Yet, despite the stress on the population of this important species, they continue to face ongoing and unnecessary threats from human activity, in particular, development and ongoing dispersal attempts.

The concept of hounding these endangered animals out of the Cairns CBD to alleged safer locations is fraught with failure, says Wildlife Queensland Policies and Campaigns Manager Des Boyland.

“The Queensland Government continues to review authorised flying fox roost management. However, history reflects that relocations only ever achieve limited success. The economic cost is high and animal welfare issues abound regardless of good intentions.”

Educating communities about our vital pollinators

Education, underpinned by factual data, is an essential tool to create a broader acceptance of flying foxes by the community.

Batty Boat Cruises is one of Wildlife Queensland’s most successful public education initiatives. Since 1984, Batty Boat Cruises have introduced hundreds of people every summer to the fascinating world of the flying fox.

Many people are unaware of just how important flying foxes are, says Des Boyland.

“As flower pollinators and seed dispersers, flying foxes are crucial to a variety of native Queensland forests.”

They also naturally have a low reproduction rate, so addressing and minimising threats is essential in maintaining populations. 

Get involved: how you can help our endangered flying foxes

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