Grey-headed flying fox population in Wingham Brush disappearing

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Not here: Wingham's grey-headed flying fox colony have seemingly left to find food in other regions far from home.

Not here: Wingham's grey-headed flying fox colony have seemingly left to find food in other regions far from home.

While Sydney and Kempsey are reporting an influx of grey-headed flying foxes, the population of the threatened species in Wingham Brush has been seriously reduced, prompting concern that the Brush population may not recover.

Wingham FAWNA carer Danny Cain said he cannot give exact numbers of the population, but that the usual number is “down very much from what it should be.”

“There may be some in there, but I have not spotted them,” Danny said.

“I wonder how the Brush will recover. A lot of the greys were year round residents – will they come back?”

Two thousand of this year’s batch of pups in the Brush died earlier late last year due to starvation bought on by drought.

There has been major concern that the population would further suffer due to the extreme temperatures experienced this summer.

Last weekend’s record-breaking heatwave saw flying fox camps throughout NSW being affected by the scorching heat with flying foxes dropping dead to the ground by the thousands.

The Wingham Brush camp was largely unaffected, with only five black flying fox carcasses being picked up. However, only two weeks earlier another heatwave had caused the death of 140 flying foxes, all of those blacks besides one grey-headed juvenile.

“That death was probably a result of the parent going out to feed and being shot by a farmer,” FAWNA carer Danny Cain said.

Bat daddy: FAWNA carer Danny Cain with one of this year's lucky grey-headed flying fox orphans.

Bat daddy: FAWNA carer Danny Cain with one of this year's lucky grey-headed flying fox orphans.

Although the flying fox loop through Wingham Brush remains closed, a walk through the rest of the reserve shows it is suffering from the drought, with very little canopy cover.

Danny Cain and other FAWNA carers are concerned the grey-headed flying fox population in Wingham Brush will not recover from this summer’s catastrophic losses.

The slow disappearance of the native animal is of environmental concern, as they are crucial long-distance pollinators for our forest ecosystems.

I wonder how the Brush will recover. A lot of the greys were year round residents – will they come back?

FAWNA carer Danny Cain

"These extreme heat events have a very serious impact on the species, and those impacts then reverberate through the Australian forest ecosystems," Dr Welbergen, president of the Australasian Bat Society and a senior lecturer in animal ecology at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Suddenly if you don't have any flying foxes, then there's no pollen and seed dispersal of plants that are reliant on flying foxes for these services."

However the concern is not just for the environment – tourism in our town could be affected.

The flying fox maternity camp at Wingham Brush is a tourist draw-card, helping boost our economy with the tourist dollars spent while they are here.

Inundated: Carers have have been "smashed" with orphaned flying fox babies needing care.

Inundated: Carers have have been "smashed" with orphaned flying fox babies needing care.

“I have encountered quite a lot of people who have come into town specifically to see the flying foxes,” Danny said, adding that most of the people coming for that reason are young, international visitors from Europe. 

The National Parks and Wildlife Service were unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

Call FAWNA on 6581 4141 (24 hour line) if you find a flying fox in trouble. To inquire about courses for becoming a carer visit their website www.fawna.org.au.