Monday, June 4, 2012

Bye Bye Bats

This morning I learned that the Royal Botanical Garden waged war against all the flying foxes that hang out in the trees there.

They're trying to get rid of them.

They're not doing this by shooting them or poisoning them.  They're not killing them. Instead they're using percussion noises to get them to relocate.  

Where are the bats going to go next?

Who knows.

I loved the bats when we visited Australia in 2007 and 2009. They were probably my favorite thing in the Royal Botanical Gardens.

However now I've probably become a bit paranoid about them. I've heard about the Hendra virus, and I saw that recent virus horror movie involving a bat.

It's probably unfair of me, though. It's like being scared of humans because SOME of us carry viruses.

Well, that I think of it.  I AM somewhat scared of humans. I'm a bit of a germaphobe.  

Still, though.  Do many bats carry the Hendra virus?   Are they that much of a threat to humans and horses?

Or is it more about them being a nuisance and destroying trees?  According to the article I read this morning, twenty-eight trees and thirty palms have been destroyed in the gardens.  That's pretty destructive.

What's a palm, by the way?  Is that not a tree? 


I've been trying to figure out the prevalence of the Hendra virus in flying foxes.  

I finally found this horse website.  They say:

 Follow-up studies showed an antibody prevalence of between 20-50% in flying fox populations across their mainland distribution. These findings indicate that flying foxes are a natural host.

I'm not sure what that means exactly...scientifically speaking. But I do get the idea that the virus is pretty common in bats. 

And later down in the page they say:

Evidence suggests the virus spreads easily between bats, but they show no clinical signs and appear to be unaffected by the virus.

So yeah. It doesn't seem like this Hendra virus is a rare thing for bats.

Here's the thing, though.

Humans don't get the Hendra virus from bats.  It's not transmitted that way.  So humans aren't in that type of danger when visiting the Royal Botanical Gardens.   If I went back to Australia and the bats remained, I could enjoy seeing them. I wouldn't need to be paranoid.

The problem is horses. Horses can get the virus from bats. Then the humans can get the virus from the horse.

Are there a lot of horses hanging around the Royal Botanical Gardens?

I doubt it.

So maybe it wasn't a great idea to move the bats. What if they go somewhere that DOES have horses?

I understand the concern about tree loss, though.

Well, it will be interesting to see what happens next.

Will the percussion thing work?  Will all the bats leave?  Or will at least enough leave to help the trees?

Will the bats return?

Will they become a nuisance somewhere else, or will they find a place that's more tolerant towards them?  


  1. Oh, the drama with these bats has been going on for years in Melbourne.
    There's nothing better on a balmy summer evening than a live performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream in the park, but when it's time for the bats to go beddy-byes, they make an unholy noise and drown out the performance for a while.
    One of the problems is that the Botanical Gardens [in Melb at least] was designed to be a sort of plant museum, with at least one of every botanical species possible. I don't know if it's this or the absence of natural predators that makes them breed in such large numbers. Or maybe the plants in the gardens don't attract natural predators, or something.

    The only contact they seem to have with humans is when they leave a deposit on a car. It's the only muck I know that is harder to dislodge than getting baby-roo poo off a vinyl floor. [Well, maybe hot tar is worse. It's a toss up.]

    You are quite right to wonder where they can go. Sometimes I think it would be more sensible to cull them [humanely of course]. There is little danger of them dying out, and Lord knows what germs they are spreading to whom or even to what species that are endangered.

    I haven't seen one flapping about after accidentally flying inside a house since I was a kid, because we all have good screen doors now.

    It's okay to come back home to Oz - there's nothing much that will kill you except the stress of thinking about politics.

  2. Fruitcake,

    I really love how you say "Come back HOME to Oz". That's very sweet.

    Culling would probably be a better terms of ecological and practical purposes. The hard thing is when you think about bats being individuals rather than one big mass.

    And there's the fact that culling humans would be a huge boost to trees, other animals, and the environment in general.

    Is it fair to do away with bats for being pests when we're much worse?

    Balancing all this's just more to add to the political stress nightmares out there.

    Basically the earth is overcrowded...with all types of animals (including humans). That's probably the cause of 90% of problems.

    Reducing new population is usually easier on the conscience than killing what's already alive. It would be nice if there was a cheap, safe, and easy bat birth control method.

    And it would also be nice if there really was gold at the end of the rainbow.

    Thinking about all this. It gives me a lot of respect for the people who actually have the job of trying to figure this all out. I imagine it's a tough job balancing ecological and animal rights concerns.

  3. Melbourne quite successfully moved our bats on from our Botanic Gardens for a number of years using noise to disturb them. They moved upriver. But I think they are returning now.

  4. Andrew:

    Well, I guess they could do the noise again. Do you think they're waiting for a large population to return..before making all the noise?